Morgan re-signing a defining moment in Cowboys history

Michael Morgan's re-signing at the North Queensland Cowboys for five years caps the most significant succession plan in modern rugby league history.

For years, Cowboys general manager of football Peter Parr has been asked what the club would do when Johnathan Thurston sailed off into the sunset, as he will at the end of 2018.

All along the club felt as though it had its man within its own ranks.

When it comes to replacing a true play-making great with a footballer who could step up and fill the breach, it is hard to think of any succession plan as astute in modern times.

It proved elusive for the Parramatta Eels, Canberra Raiders and Newcastle Knights when Peter Sterling, Ricky Stuart and Andrew Johns respectively hung up their boots.

That is not a blight on those clubs because to find suitable replacements for legends is hard to do, if nigh on impossible.

Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan.
Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

The Broncos also struggled after Allan Langer's retirement and in the end switched Darren Lockyer from fullback to five-eighth to fill the breach.

The Sydney Roosters did well to sign Cooper Cronk in the post-Mitchell Pearce era, but unlike Morgan he does not have another possible eight or nine years in the game ahead of him.

Morgan's re-signing is a credit to the way the Cowboys manage their roster and plan for the future.

No club in recent times has managed to maintain the continuity in their top squad like the Townsville-based club.

Thurston will no doubt be inducted as an Immortal in the future and no-one would suggest Morgan is at that level at this stage of his career.

Last year however he showcased the ability to step up and become a leader, a game manager and a controller of football games under the ultimate pressure of finals football.

He was unable to have the decisive influence on the grand final against the Melbourne Storm but no team was beating the men in purple last year, a side that was one of the best, if not the best, of the NRL era.

Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan.
Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan. ©Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos

Coach Paul Green's influence on Morgan's development cannot be overstated.

When Green arrived as head coach in November of 2013, Morgan had a month earlier played for the Mackay Cutters in the Intrust Super Cup grand final and his career was on the decline.

Green played Morgan as a fullback in the 2014 season when Lachlan Coote was injured, then elevated him to the halves in 2015 where he will forever be remembered for his clutch play to send Kyle Feldt over in the corner in the final seconds of regular time in the season decider.

Morgan's game has continued to develop under Green. The Cowboys five-eighth has often given credit to his coach for his improvement, explaining how Green has taught him a lot about how to use his unbounded skills at certain moments in games. Morgan has spoken of how Green has encouraged him to take his opportunities, while complementing that with the nous to know when not to overplay his hand.

Now Morgan is set to play into his 30s at the Cowboys and for the next five years at least will have his good mate Jason Taumalolo by his side.

Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan.
Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

Taumalolo's 10-year commitment to the Cowboys last year will prove to be a magnet for other key players at the club to stay on.

Morgan spoke on that topic recently in an interview with NRL.com.

The Storm have had their 'Big Three' but the Cowboys, in Taumalolo and Morgan, have their own 'Terrific Two'.

Morgan's retention will now allow the Cowboys to challenge the Broncos for Queensland supremacy in clubland.

After making the last seven finals series and winning a premiership to boot, there is a case to say they already have at least matched the Brisbane-based powerhouse in that regard.