Morgan's plan to succeed 'fab four'
Christian Laettner knows exactly how Michael Morgan was feeling when the Cowboys utility was brought in to the Queensland team for Game One of the 2015 State of Origin Series.
Already blessed to be playing and training alongside Johnathan Thurston on a daily basis in Townsville, Morgan admits he was awestruck to now be in a team that contained Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.
Laettner knows what he means.
When USA Basketball assembled the greatest roster of talent ever seen arguably on any sporting team in history for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, US colleges' reigning NCAA Player of the Year also earned selection.
Magic, Larry and Michael.
Barkley, Pippen and Ewing.
"I was the luckiest person in the world," Laettner said on the 20-year anniversary of the Dream Team's gold medal-winning performance.
"To go from the top of the college game and go right to the best of the best in the NBA was just an unbelievable experience for me and an unbelievable feeling.
"It helped me with how hard I had to work and how dedicated I had to be."
For just the second time in his relatively young career Morgan is again surrounded by Queensland's 'Fab Four', the returns of Billy Slater and Johnathan Thurston rounding out a quartet that has won 10 of the 14 Origin matches in which they have all played together.
Game Two of the 2015 series was the last time the four lined up alongside each other and with Thurston already announcing that this is his last season in the representative arena each game together could be their last.
Which is why Morgan has spent as much of the past week in Queensland camp absorbing all the rugby league lessons they have to impart, studying at the feet of geniuses so that in time he can carry forward their legacy.
"You want to be your own player but I'd be silly not to try pick up some of their traits and the things that they do and the way conduct themselves, the things they say or the way they look at a game," Morgan told NRL.com.
"That's what I try to do while I'm here, soak up as much of that sort of stuff as I can and try and put that into my game.
"Coming through my teenage years was when this team was going through their very good run of Origin wins and I like anyone else in Queensland I was a huge fan of them.
"Obviously I knew 'JT' but the other three guys came up and introduced themselves, made me feel welcome, even though I spent the week in awe of them.
"They'll work on their individual game a lot longer than other players but they're also more than happy to help other players first and then go and do their thing.
"When you see them do all those kinds of things you understand why they've been so good for so long and you understand what it takes."
When Thurston suffered a calf injury in Round 6 everyone looked to Morgan to take control of the Cowboys, a role he is not yet completely comfortable with.
Sensing that a player who has spent the majority of his career as a running five-eighth/fullback could use some direction with regards to game management, Cronk approached Morgan during the Test in Canberra to offer his thoughts on the types of things he could incorporate into his game.
The subsequent shoulder injury that sidelined Thurston for a further month allowed Morgan to put those particular lessons into practice and guide North Queensland to wins over the Bulldogs and Titans along with a narrow defeat to the Sharks.
"He came up to me and started the conversation with me," Morgan said of his talk with Cronk. "That's the kind of guys they are. They're happy to help someone's game as well and I'm grateful for it.
"The year I had at fullback it was always a sweeping role and [I'd] probably done that a lot as a five-eighth as well so a part of my game that has had to improve is the ball-playing side and Cooper gave me a few tips on that.
"I came back from that camp with a bit more confidence within that role. After that camp was the first week I had more on the ball, similar to what 'Johno' does. Obviously not to his level but that role within the side and I was confident going in to do that.
"I spoke to 'Greeny' (Cowboys coach Paul Green) that week and said that I was comfortable doing that while Johno was out and used what Cooper spoke to me about."
Still just 25 years of age and playing in his seventh Origin game on Wednesday night, Morgan knows the opportunities to mine some of the game's best rugby league minds will be few and far between but had one final plea: "They will be gone; hopefully they don't all go at once."
First published on NRL.com.