JT injury ‘fast-tracked’ Morgan’s rise as playmaker
THE sight of Johnathan Thurston sidelined with a season-ending shoulder injury broke plenty of hearts at North Queensland.
But Matt Scott reckons it was a blessing in disguise after off-contract playmaker Michael Morgan finally stepped up in Thurston's absence at the Cowboys.
Co-captains Thurston and Scott made a successful comeback from injury in North Queensland's 30-16 NRL trial loss to a new look Wests Tigers in Cairns on Saturday night.
It marked prized playmaker Thurston's first game since inspiring Queensland's State of Origin game two win last June.
And Test prop Scott returned after breaking down with a season-ending knee injury in round two 2017.
Yet Scott was more excited about the form of someone who didn't even play against the Tigers - Morgan.
Written off without their co-captains, an injury-ravaged North Queensland had to rely on other results to scrape into the top eight before Morgan almost singlehandedly steered them to an unlikely 2017 grand final appearance.
And Scott said the pre-season signs were good that Morgan would pick up where he left off in 2018.
"It has been very encouraging. It was blessing in disguise JT getting injured for his (Morgan's) development," Scott said.
"It has fast tracked his role and development as a playmaker.
"And it is good to see he has kept that self confidence this pre-season.
"He has not been afraid to call the all and steer the team around even with JT back on the field."
Morgan was rested in Cairns but will be unleashed in the Cowboys' final pre-season hit-out - Friday night's blockbuster grand final rematch against champions Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium.
The NRL trial will double as Thurston and Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith's testimonial match.
Scott believed the stage had been set for Morgan to show 2017 was no fluke.
"He knows he needs to keep doing what he did last year, having that self confidence to make an impact on a game and improve even more," Scott said.
"But personally I am just extremely happy that he had the year that he had - it is great sign for the future of the club."
Morgan is reportedly set to sign a new five year, $1 million a season deal as the Cowboys plan for life after Thurston.
Cowboys talisman Thurston has said 2018 will mark his 17th and final NRL season.
Scott was confident off contract Cowboys coach Paul Green would also re-sign.
"I am not going to say which one is more important to re-sign (Green or Morgan)," Scott said.
"Both are important.
"But I am confident that the club can retain both of them."