The stage is set for the ultimate State of Origin trial for Queensland bench utility dark horse Michael Morgan.
The closest Michael Morgan thought he would get to a State of Origin experience this year was rubbing shoulders with North Queensland teammate – and Maroons pivot – Johnathan Thurston at their NRL club.
Yet Cowboys No.1 Morgan, 22, suddenly finds himself in the mix for a bench utility spot for an injury-hit Queensland ahead of this month’s must-win Origin II clash against NSW in Sydney.
And his stocks will only improve further if he passes Origin’s toughest test – Parramatta fullback Jarryd Hayne.
Morgan admitted he was embarrassed to be named this week as a dark horse to fill the Maroons utility vacancy ahead of Friday night’s clash with the Eels at Pirtek Stadium.
“I don’t know how to put this. I am definitely proud that my name has been put out there and I would love to play Origin,” he told AAP.
“But I would have thought a few other players would be ahead of me.
“Let’s just say I was not expecting to play Origin at the start of the season.”
Morgan is in the Origin bench spot mix along with Canberra’s Anthony Milford and Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt.
Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans has created the vacancy after slotting in for injured Maroons halfback Cooper Cronk (broken arm).
But even Cherry-Evans may be touch-and-go for Origin II due to hip and knee complaints, creating more potential headaches for Maroons selectors.
Either way, the stage is set for the ultimate Origin trial for Morgan as he lines up against the man of the match in Origin I, Eels fullback Hayne.
Cowboys coach Paul Green would not have helped his nerves.
“He can do just about anything. He can run, pass, kick. You are not sure exactly what is coming at you and he is a physical guy – he ticks all the boxes,” Green gushed.
Then again Morgan has already stepped out of the shadow of another legendary fullback to be considered for Origin.
Townsville-bred Morgan had only trained in the Cowboys halves since his 2010 NRL debut.
Yet he was Green’s first choice as replacement No.1 when the man expected to replace club legend Matt Bowen at fullback, Lachlan Coote, suffered a year-ending knee injury in the pre-season.
“Matt was a freak, a legend,” Morgan said.
“And it was devastating what happened to Lachlan.
“I have just been trying to do my best since.”