Michael Morgan.will be given a licence to roam both edges this season. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Michael Morgan.will be given a licence to roam both edges this season. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Morgan set for restructured halves role

COWBOYS playmaker Michael Morgan will be given freedom to play both sides of the ruck when he plays his first game since the retirement of Johnathan Thurston on Saturday.

Morgan, a right-side specialist when he played at five-eighth, is set to wear the No.7 jersey when his season kicks off against a star-laden Melbourne on Saturday in Mackay.

"The style of game we play will be a bit different than it was with Johnathan," Cowboys coach Paul Green said.

"He won't be on a particular side. Without putting too much pressure on him, he just needs to do his job and do it well. The rest will look after itself.

"We have seen Morgo at his best, and before he was injured he was the Test five-eighth.''

The trial in Mackay will also see Josh McGuire, Jordan Kahu and Nene Macdonald play their first games in Cowboys colours.

Storm heavyweights Cameron Smith and Cameron Munster have also decided to get a pre-season outing under their belts before they open the premiership season at home against Brisbane on March 14.

Morgan has been largely restricted to one side throughout his career.
Morgan has been largely restricted to one side throughout his career.

North Queensland's post-Thurston era will take work to execute successfully because the champion playmaker racked up more than 22 games in six of his last seven seasons.

The durable Thurston's most appearances in one season was 25, in North Queensland's 2015 premiership charge, but he also played 24 games in 2016 and 2018.

Morgan managed only 11 games last year before a ruptured biceps tendon ended his involvement.

Morgan will share halves duties with either Jake Clifford or the more experienced Te Maire Martin in the Cowboys' opening premiership match on March 16 against St George Illawarra.

Green said he expected Morgan would do "the majority'' of kicking in general play.

Morgan will play alongside either Jake Clifford or Te Maire Martin. Picture: Patrick Woods
Morgan will play alongside either Jake Clifford or Te Maire Martin. Picture: Patrick Woods

"We need to settle on our combinations. Having (the sacking of) Ben Barba come up when it did, it was pretty disruptive, given its timing,'' he said.

"We need to get our combinations and build some form around those.''

Green said Matt Scott, making his way back from a neck injury, would play a second pre-season trial in Mackay.

Scott, Jason Taumalolo and Jordan McLean played about 20 minutes each last Saturday and are set to receive more minutes against Melbourne.

Martin has spent more time with Morgan in the past. Picture: Scott Davis
Martin has spent more time with Morgan in the past. Picture: Scott Davis

Cowboys football manager Peter Parr said winger Murray Taulagi would miss three to five weeks with a knee medial ligament injury.

Smith and Munster add further star profile to the Mackay trial, with Kiwi prop Jesse Bromwich to make his first Storm appearance after playing for the Maori All-Stars on February 15.

Storm centre Will Chambers may need the week off due to an ankle problem.

The Cowboys played Ethan Lowe for about 50 minutes against Gold Coast last Saturday despite speculation he may seek a transfer to South Sydney.

"As far as I'm concerned he is contracted to us. He played the trial for us,'' Green said.

"Until that changes, (he) won't be treated any differently. He is part of our squad.''