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

Maroons salivate at seeing Cowboy in full flight

MAROONS coach Kevin Walters cannot wait to see Michael Morgan in full flight as the side attempts to wrestle the State of Origin shield back across the border.

Morgan was one of two Cowboys named in the Queensland side yesterday, along with Josh McGuire, and will line up on the lethal left edge inside Brisbane's Corey Oates.

Cowboys' Origin incumbents Coen Hess and Gavin Cooper were both left out of Walters' squad, while Jake Granville was unlucky to not secure the number nine jersey with Ben Hunt getting the nod and Moses Mbye to debut as the bench utility.

The series opener on June 5 will mark Morgan's 10th appearance for the Maroons, and his first since the opening clash last year when he started at fullback.

He missed the end of the series last year after he sustained a torn pectoral muscle which ruled him out for the second half of the season.

While the Cowboys struggled at the start of the 2019, a recent resurgence in form had Walters salivating at the prospect of seeing Morgan in maroon.

"The Cowboys struggled a bit early, they found their feet and their mojo and particularly with Michael," Walters said.

"He's one of those players, he has played in the centres for us before with great success. I still remember him flicking that pass in Origin II of 2017 to set up the winning try for Queensland.

"(It's) great to have him on board. This time last year he was flat out running with his groin problem. A fit, firing Michael Morgan, how good is that for Queensland?"

Josh McGuire of the Maroons is tackled during Game 3 of the 2018 State of Origin series between the NSW Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AAP Image/Jono Searle) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Josh McGuire of the Maroons is tackled during Game 3 of the 2018 State of Origin series between the NSW Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AAP Image/Jono Searle) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Walters said Morgan will replace retired Maroons skipper Greg Inglis on the left edge for Queensland, which will also feature game-changing playmakers Cameron Munster and Kalyn Ponga.

McGuire will also add plenty of starch to the middle third of the field, after he was named to start the game at lock.

 

The Blues made a habit of targeting the Maroons middle during their series win last year with Damien Cook and Jake Trbojevic running rampant. But it will be the rock solid defence of McGuire, who has made 263 tackles at an 83.6 per cent efficiency this season, which could prove the difference.

While North Queensland fans will be excited to see the Cowboys in action on the Origin stage, many have been left scratching their heads as to the omission of Hess and Cooper.

Walters said he spoke to both men personally before the team announcement, and admitted it was a tough decision to leave them out.

"Gavin Cooper has served Queensland with nothing but great performances. He was a tough one to leave out," he said.

"Coen Hess is injured, I wouldn't have thought he would be available to play in game one anyway."

Walters has declared war on the NSW side and said the opening game was one "we expect to win".

"What we did pick was the best 17 players available and now it's time for this side to go out and show everyone what a side they can be," he said.