Michael Morgan has achieved everything in the game but his former North Queensland coach Paul Green believes injuries denied the Kangaroos and Maroons star of an even greater career.
Persistent shoulder injuries, the last of which was sustained in North Queensland’s round two match against St George Illawarra, forced Morgan to announce his retirement on Friday.
He is considered one of the Cowboys greatest players after playing a leading role in the historic 2015 premiership win and steering the club to the 2017 grand final in the absence of injured superstar Johnathon Thurston.
In fact so was highly was Morgan regarded that he was often selected at representative level in any position that needed filling - playing fullback and centre for Queensland, five-eighth for Australia in the 2017 World Cup, which was the same season he was named the Dally M halfback of the year.
However, the Cowboys captain was limited to just 37 matches for the club since the 2017 grand final and Green believes that he was only going to become a better player.
"It's a testament to his ability that I don't think we ever got to see the best of Morgo," Green said. "That's a big statement because of how good he was."
"It is a shame because he has had a really disrupted time for the past three seasons and that was a period when I felt he was really coming into his prime as a player.
"If you told any player at the start of their career that they could have Michael Morgan's career, they would take it in a heart beat.
"He has achieved everything in the game - won a grand final, played for Queensland, played for Australia, been the Dally M halfback of the year and captained his club - but he just didn't have any luck with injuries."
.A key member of North Queensland’s 2015 premiership-winning team, Morgan wrote his name into folklore with the clever flick pass to put winger Kyle Feldt over for the try after fulltime that forced the grand final into extra-time.
He also played 12 Origins for Queensland and 12 Tests for Australia, including the 2017 World Cup final triumph against England.
The try that turned the tide
Morgan’s retirement comes on medical grounds after fresh complications to his troublesome right shoulder, which limited him to just six appearances last season.
He was able to finish the round two match against the Dragons but further medical assessment uncovered new damage, which led to the decision to call time on his career after 168 NRL appearances for the Cowboys.
"This is not the way I envisioned my career finishing, but I’m retiring knowing I gave myself every opportunity over the last 12 months for my shoulder to be strong enough to continue playing," Morgan told the Cowboys website.
"Unfortunately, the end result was out of my control. Even though I’m hanging up the boots at 29, I’m extremely proud of everything I achieved over the course of 12 seasons as an NRL player.
"As someone who was born and raised in Townsville, the opportunity to join the Cowboys as a 16-year-old was fulfilling a life-long dream and I’m grateful for every moment at this great club."
Cowboys CEO Jeff Reibel described Morgan an as influential leader both on and off the field.
"Michael was a North Queensland and Townsville junior, came to our club as a teenager and would go on to be named captain of our club," he said.
"Everyone remembers what he has contributed to our club on the field, in particular helping us win our first premiership in 2015 and our grand final run in 2017, but what I have been privileged to witness is him mature as a man off the field. His leadership around our club and his care for not only his teammates, but everyone at the Cowboys has been inspiring.
"His toughness and tenacity to be able to endure what he has over the last couple of seasons should be admired – he has looked under every last rock and has gone through a lot of pain to reach the point he has today."