Cowboys training session at QCB Stadium
Cowboys training session at QCB Stadium

Morgan looks to JT under weight of leadership

MICHAEL Morgan has sounded out Cowboys champion Johnathan Thurston for leadership advice as the injured skipper spoke of the pressures to revive North Queensland as a premiership force.

The Cowboys' season relaunch has suffered a blow with Morgan resigned to missing the next month of football after undergoing shoulder surgery during the coronavirus-enforced suspension of the NRL.

But Morgan is taking a big-picture view, with the Cowboys' chief playmaker recently reaching out to his old partner-in-crime Thurston to discuss ways to haul North Queensland out of the premiership cellar.

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Morgan famously steered the club to the 2017 grand final without Thurston, who required shoulder surgery, but since that magical finals run the Cowboys have slumped to the bottom four in consecutive years.

Thurston's retirement at the end of 2018 cleared the path for Morgan's ascension to the captaincy but the Cowboys' $5 million man has enlisted the help of "JT" to get the club firing again.

"I still talk to JT, I spoke to him during this break about a couple of things," Morgan said.

"We haven't talked a lot about footy lately but he has spoken to me a lot about that (leadership).

Morgan’s form struggles have been much discussed. Photo: Alix Sweeney
Morgan’s form struggles have been much discussed. Photo: Alix Sweeney

"Being captain can be challenging. You have to figure your own way of doing it and what works best for the team.

"To be honest, I'm not a confrontational type of person. I want what's best for the club and the playing group. Last year wasn't a good year on the field at all and as captain you feel that responsibility and take the losses hard.

"Replacing 'Jonno' and 'Thumper' (Matt Scott, Thurston's co-captain) was daunting. I'm very different personality to those guys. They were great captains, they took us to the premiership (in 2015). I was lucky enough to pick up their good habits and I'm lucky we have a good leadership group at the club, so all the pressure isn't just on me."

Morgan revealed the extent of his shoulder injury, which dates back more than two years to the 2017 World Cup, when he was five-eighth in Australia's defeat of England in the final.

"I've been carrying it since the World Cup," he said.

Following an future Immortal is an impossible task. Photo: Alix Sweeney
Following an future Immortal is an impossible task. Photo: Alix Sweeney

"I rehabbed it and got the strength back into my shoulder, but over the last six to 12 months, it's been giving me a fair bit of grief.

"In the first two games this year, it gave me more trouble than I thought it would.

"My shoulder kept coming out (of the joint), in the first two games it came out four times, twice in each game (against the Broncos and Bulldogs).

"The break was a good chance to get the surgery done, because if I kept playing on with it, the docs said I may not have lasted until the end of the season."

Fitness has played a huge part in Morgan's battles. Photo: Alix Sweeney
Fitness has played a huge part in Morgan's battles. Photo: Alix Sweeney

Since his golden finals run in 2017, Morgan's career has been decimated by groin, bicep and shoulder injuries. He admits he doesn't want to be remembered solely for the month of magic that piloted the Cowboys to the 2017 decider against Melbourne.

"I want to be playing well again," he said.

"We have had our challenges as a club the last couple of years and I don't want to look back at 2017 and say to myself I need to play like that again. That's in the past. Yes, it was great for what it was, but I don't want to look back, I want to keep looking forward.

"Hopefully I only miss four games, that's the plan at the moment. I don't know the exact date. If my rehab goes well, I will come back quicker, but I won't be rushing it."