North Queensland Cowboys training from the Townsville Sports Reserve. Michael Morgan. Picture: Zak Simmonds
North Queensland Cowboys training from the Townsville Sports Reserve. Michael Morgan. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Morgo’s the man for Cowboys fullback

FORMER Queensland Origin five-eighth Ben Ikin believes Michael Morgan could be the man to cover the now vacant fullback position following star recruit Ben Barba's unceremonious exit without playing a game.

North Queensland's pre-season preparations have been thrown into disarray after Barba was released on Friday over an alleged domestic violence incident at The Ville casino.

It creates a headache for coach Paul Green given the Cowboys are without a fullback less than three weeks out from their first trial match against the Titans, but Ikin said they had plenty of options.

He threw up Morgan as the "obvious choice" to shift back to the position where he first proved himself as an NRL star in 2014 with Te Maire Martin and Jake Clifford to pair up in the halves.

Morgan played three games at fullback for the Cowboys last season and also wore the No. 1 jersey for Queensland in the Origin series opener as a late injury replacement for Billy Slater.

Martin also played five games in the custodian role last season, but Ikin said if he and Clifford were comfortable in the halves then Morgan would be the best option at fullback.

Ben Barba and Michael Morgan. NRL; North Queensland Cowboys pre-season training at Townsville Sports Reserve. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Ben Barba and Michael Morgan. NRL; North Queensland Cowboys pre-season training at Townsville Sports Reserve. Picture: Alix Sweeney

"You put the talent where it needs to be," Ikin said.

"Te Maire would be equally adept playing there, it just depends on how well the other guys work together (in the halves).

"Young Jake Clifford's a rising star, everybody knows that, so you want to put Clifford at 7, maybe Morgan at 6.

"I would default to whatever looks most seamless between Clifford, Martin, and Morgan."

Ikin conceded that Barba's release was poor timing for the Cowboys, who were already going through a major shake-up to their spine following Johnathan Thurston's retirement.

North Queensland Cowboys training from 1300 Smiles Stadium. Ben Barba. Picture: Zak Simmonds
North Queensland Cowboys training from 1300 Smiles Stadium. Ben Barba. Picture: Zak Simmonds

But he felt the depth of talent in their squad meant there was no reason to panic buy another fullback to replace Barba.

"Because of the quality of the roster management up there you've got choices," Ikin said.

"The drama is that it's happened fairly late in the preseason so they've worked pretty hard getting those combinations right. We all know how important the 9, 7, 6, 1 are.

"(But) I think the organisation up there has proven, particularly under Peter Parr (director of football), that roster management's a real strength so I think they'll work their way through it."

Michael Morgan. NRL; North Queensland Cowboys pre-season training at Townsville Sports Reserve. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Michael Morgan. NRL; North Queensland Cowboys pre-season training at Townsville Sports Reserve. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Cowboys legend Matt Bowen echoed Ikin's sentiments and felt the versatility Morgan, Martin, and Ben Hampton meant they would be able to cover the fullback position.

"Benny Hampton played there last year and 'Morgo' can play there so they've got a fair few options and you've got guys like Te Maire and Jake who can play in the halves," Bowen said.

"I think they've got a fair few players there who can play in a number of positions so I don't think they really need to look for a specialist sort of fullback.

"We'll see what they come up with. I'm sure 'Greeny' will work something out."