Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston was very impressed with Michael Morgan at fullback in the club’s trial win over the Titans in Toowoomba.
Michael Morgan is firmly in the frame to start the NRL season in the No.1 jersey for North Queensland.
Cruelled by the loss of Lachlan Coote – who had been recruited to fill the big boots of club legend Matthew Bowen – to an anterior cruciate ligament tear at the Auckland Nines, the Cowboys are still trying to work out who will play at fullback in round one.
But Morgan, a handy utility who has filled positions including halfback, five-eighth, hooker and centre, was impressive in the club’s 28-12 trial win over the Gold Coast Titans in Toowoomba on Saturday night.
He scored a try, threaded through traffic with finesse and power and was unflappable under the high ball.
His first touch, a great high-ball catch under pressure, saw him drilled into the dirt but he got to his feet, scampered away and put a hard fend on centre Brad Tighe to run 40 metres.
His form was so good former Cronulla Sharks outside back Matthew Wright, a fullback by trade, could not get a look-in.
“He was really good, I thought,” captain Johnathan Thurston said of Morgan.
“He was great under the high ball and his positioning was really good.”
Morgan’s versatility could suit the Cowboys, used to having Bowen bob up as an extra playmaker to compliment Thurston’s brilliance.
“(His playmaking history) brings his running game into play, he can square up and throw a long ball as well,” Thurston said.
“It’s obviously a huge benefit for us.
“It was very disappointing for Cootey with that injury, but I thought Morgan was great.
“He just needs to keep working on his game.”
Morgan’s rapid transition to fullback is not a fait accompli, however, with youngster Zac Santo also impressing with his minutes which included a perfectly executed long pass that led to an Antonio Winterstein try on the left flank.
“Javid Bowen can play there as well,” Thurston said.
“But I thought Morgan was great.”
Even opposition coach John Cartwright was impressed.
“He was very strong … and he’s nowhere near his peak,” he said.
“He was hard to handle tonight so it was a handy little experiment for them.”
While Morgan may have one hand on the Cowboys’ fullback jersey, the backline for the Titans is anything but settled.
Cartwright rotated Maurice Blair, Brad Tighe, David Mead, Kevin Gordon and Kalifa Fai Fai Loa around the backline in a bid to find a new combination following the off-season departure of Jamal Idris to the Panthers.