RLWC: Morgan gets help to bury demons

GETTING READY: Josh McGuire (left) and Michael Morgan prepare for England.
GETTING READY: Josh McGuire (left) and Michael Morgan prepare for England. JULIAN SMITH

Michael Morgan will seek the guidance of his good mate Johnathan Thurston as the newly crowned Kangaroos pivot looks to bury his grand final demons in tomorrow night's World Cup opener against England.

Morgan admits he is still hurting over the Cowboys' loss to Melbourne and such is the pain, the classy pivot has vowed to never watch a replay of the 2017 decider.

Now the Poms are primed to inflict more mental anguish for Morgan, who is under no illusions about the task of upholding Australia's five-eighth legacy against British rival Gareth Widdop at AAMI Park. The green-and-gold No.6 jumper is one of the most decorated in rugby league history, with the likes of Thurston, Darren Lockyer, Wally Lewis and Laurie Daley among Australia's finest second receivers.

It was Thurston's shoulder injury that opened the door for Morgan's five-eighth ascension - and now the Cowboys champion will play a key role in ensuring his clubmate weathers the British onslaught.

"JT is down this week (in Australian camp) and closer to the game I will have a better chat with him," Morgan said.

"It (Thurston's season-ending injury) probably helped my game a bit this year. When I say that it developed my game ... when JT was there, he is the guy who would control the team and I would play off the back of that.

"This year, I had to take more responsibility and ownership and in that way it (Thurston's absence) developed my game."

Morgan produced the best form of his career in the Cowboys' fairytale finals surge, but his personal success has failed to ease the pain of the club's grand final hammering.

Even in Kangaroos camp, Morgan cannot escape the Cowboys' big-game heartbreak. When he runs onto AAMI Park tomorrow, his Test scrumbase partner will be Cooper Cronk, the champion halfback who orchestrated Melbourne's 34-6 title triumph.

"I don't think I will ever completely get over it," Morgan said of the 2017 NRL decider.

"I don't think I will watch it unless I am made to watch it.

"They (the Melbourne contingent in the Australian team) are good blokes and really welcoming, so what happened in the grand final doesn't affect me in the Australia team now.

"Looking back it was a bit disappointing how it finished. I'm OK with that, but next year it will create a bit of fire in the belly."

Without Thurston, Morgan accepts his new role is akin to batting after Bradman. In his seven-Test career, Morgan has started just once at five-eighth and believes Widdop, Cronk's former scrumbase partner at the Storm, will be hellbent on outpointing him.

"They will want to make a statement and we know that," he said.

"Widdop was one of the form five-eighths of the NRL season.

"He has played a fair bit for England, too, and is a real leader in their group, he is someone who will like the extra responsibility."

Topics:  johnathan thurston kangaroos michael morgan nrl rugby league world cup

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