North Queensland Toyota Cowboys playmaker Michael Morgan says he is proud to play for a club where, even missing some superstars through injury, the team has been a threat to every team they've played.
North Queensland have had one of the worst injury runs of any team this year with Kangaroos pair Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott featuring very little with fullback Lachlan Coote, centre Justin O'Neill and winger Antonio Winterstein also missing significant footy.
Morgan has had to assume a far greater leadership role in the absence of talismanic skipper Johnathan Thurston. He said while he has relished the chance to grow, it hasn't always been smooth sailing.
His patience and leadership – not to mention his calm-headed extra-time field goal – were instrumental in his team toppling premiers Cronulla at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
"Given 'JT' was missing it had to be a natural progression for myself and my career [this year]," Morgan said.
"I think it's just where I had to go with it and I had to take some responsibility and I've said the past couple of weeks it's something I have enjoyed. I've enjoyed the responsibility and taking more control.
"It's been a challenge at times, it's not something I've done a lot of before – certainly not in first grade – but I've enjoyed it."
That leadership he has shown certainly drew some strong praise from his coach after the game.
"In terms of development of a player, this year we've seen him take some enormous steps and I think out there [on Sunday] he was brilliant for us," Paul Green said.
Despite losing five of their final six regular season games, the Cowboys were in every contest with the possible exception of a 26-8 loss to the Storm and even that was better than plenty of other teams managed against Melbourne over the back end of the season.
Those committed efforts gave the players confidence ahead of their elimination final against Cronulla, according to Morgan.
"Not a lot of people gave us a chance but in-house we were confident," he said.
"The last few weeks we haven't had many wins but there's been a number of games we've certainly been in and we've created opportunities we didn't quite take and that's what was frustrating.
"We've got enough confidence in ourselves and the group that's here."
While not having quite the same firepower available as in their 2015 premiership year, Morgan said the spirit in the team was similar.
"If we don't have that [spirit] we would have rolled over against teams and thrown in the towel," he said.
"We haven't done that once this year and that's what's been good. We've enjoyed doing that too, enjoyed always being a threat and being a challenge and not rolling over because you don't want to be a team that does. I'm proud to be a part of the team the way we do hang in there."
First published on NRL.com.