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Morgan on the ball for Cowboys

North Queensland Cowboys match-winner Michael Morgan says a simple approach to being more "on the ball" as well as the return of two senior playmakers has helped him shrug off his own, and the club's, recent indifferent form in a big win over the Bulldogs despite the absence of star half Johnathan Thurston.

The Cowboys were awful in a last-start home loss to the Eels, unconvincing a week prior against bottom-placed Newcastle and lost the week before that to the Dragons but looked a new team with fullback Lachlan Coote and hooker Jake Granville back to support Morgan.

‌Morgan was the star of the show in the 30-14 win at ANZ on Thursday, kicking for four try assists and scoring a fine solo try.

He benefited greatly from the steadying return of Coote who, despite some eye-caching performances from rookie Kalyn Ponga this year, has been badly missed by the team and kicked for a game-high 203 metres on Thursday.

Hooker Jake Granville also returned from injury and the pair helped add plenty of experience to the playmaking in Thurston's absence.

"It was great to have those guys back," Morgan said.

"Cootey's a really loud voice out on the field in attack and defence and having him there, it definitely helped me a lot with organising and that type of thing and Jake, he's been a very important part of our side for a few years now and to have him back as well was good.

"To have them both at the same time in the same week, we got to train with them this week so it was really good."

Morgan has had to go from partnering Thurston, to playing alongside skilful forward John Asiata, then to utility Ray Thompson over the past month but he said it was more his own approach on Thursday that boosted his form rather than who he was paired with in the halves.

"Things we were doing weren't working as well as what we wanted so that's why I felt fine about going into being on the ball more like I was [on Thursday]," he said.

"The last few weeks I was wearing No.7 but John Asiata was on the ball whereas tonight I might have been wearing six but my role was to be on the ball and I felt comfortable doing that.

"It's always spoken about, not being able to score points with Johnno [Thurston] not in the team so to be able to do that and defend well as well is pleasing.

Of his pinpoint kicking game that created four tries, Morgan insisted there was an element of good fortune.

"It was a bit of a dewy night so just putting the ball along the ground and a couple of opportunities presented themselves... a couple we might have got lucky on but there were boys pushing through for the ball and competing and that's what you want," he said.


With Thurston still in doubt for State of Origin I, Morgan was left to field the inevitable questions over his own Maroons hopes and while he felt he would be up to the task of partnering Cooper Cronk for Queensland if needed, he was desperate to see his clubmate notch a 37th straight Origin appearance.

"I like to think [I could handle it], you always want to back yourself and have confidence in yourself," he said.

"Personally I still hope Johnno plays, I really do. He's played 36 Origins in a row and it would be a shame to see him miss one. As a fan of the team I really hope he plays because Queensland is at their best when he's in there."

Cowboys coach Paul Green was happy to back Morgan for a Maroons berth.

"He certainly didn't do [his Origin hopes] any harm. He stepped up and ran the show and did a great job in that effort and I'm really proud of him," Green said.

"Getting Cootey and Jake back, we got a bit more direction around the park and our ends to sets, we built a lot of pressure, camped them down their end for a long time and we've got some boys that can score some tries pretty easily once we get our share of the ball."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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