North Queensland Toyota Cowboys star Michael Morgan is now widely regarded as one of the premier five-eighths in the NRL. On Thursday night he faces off with one of the finest No.6s of the modern era and he can't wait.
While Wests Tigers legend Benji Marshall was already established as one of the NRL's true superstars when the two first clashed in Round 19 of the 2011 season, Morgan was just eight games into his first grade career.
Marshall took bragging rights that night courtesy of a try and seven goals from as many attempts in a 38-18 Wests Tigers win, and with the veteran back in vintage form in 2018, Morgan knows the Cowboys will have to be at their best defensively to shut the Wests Tigers playmaker down on Thursday night.
"I played him in my second season in first grade and his was in pretty good form then too. He's been in great form this year," Morgan said.
"He's gone back to the Wests Tigers and is obviously enjoying himself and you can tell he's one the main leaders within their group. When people are enjoying their footy the way he is at the moment they're very hard to contain."
Morgan also came out strongly in defence of Cowboys co-captain and halves partner Johnathan Thurston on Monday.
Despite sitting second in the NRL in both try assists (10) and line-break assists (9), Thurston has continually copped the brunt of the criticism for the Cowboys' slow start to the year – something Morgan believes is completely unfair.
"When teams go well halves get a lot of wraps and when teams go bad the same thing happens. As his teammate it hurts that people have said that about him simply because of the player he's been for so long and the player that he is," Morgan said.
It does hurt to hear people bagging him, but our playing group knows he's not struggling.Michael Morgan on Johnathan Thurston
"Being his last season I'd love nothing more than to send him out like the champion he is."
With State of Origin quickly approaching Morgan finds himself firmly entrenched in a tight battle for a spot in the halves for Queensland.
But with the 26-year-old also having experience off the bench and in the centres for the Maroons, he's happy to wear any number on his back as long as he's in the side.
"I'm not going to stand here and say yes I should be the halfback for Queensland," Morgan said.
"If I was picked on the bench I would be as happy to be there as I would be to be in the starting side. I played centre in Game 3 last year, so just to be picked in the side I would be extremely happy with.
"Don't get me wrong, I'd love to start in the halves for Queensland, but if I wasn't the case I'm not going to be kicking stones."