Morgan should be picked in Test side instead of Cronk

Greg Prichard Columnist

By Greg Prichard, Greg Prichard is a Roar Expert

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    It’s time to move Cooper Cronk out and bring Michael Morgan in alongside Johnathan Thurston as the halves pairing for the Australian team.

    It won’t happen, of course. Cronk is set to be named at halfback, with Thurston at five-eighth, in the Australian team for the Test match against New Zealand at Hunter Stadium on May 6. But sometimes the loyalty factor is over-rated.

    Cronk is 32 and there is a Four Nations tournament at the end of this season and a World Cup at the end of next. He is still a force, but he hasn’t been at his best this season.

    Thurston turns 33 on Anzac Day. Do we really want to bank on a halves pairing of Thurston, who will be 34 by then, and Cronk, who will be almost 34 (he was born on December 5) at the World Cup?

    People talk about how Test jumpers should not be given away cheaply and they are right, but elevating Morgan to Test status now would not be an example of that. At 24, he is ready to make his Test debut and would be thoroughly deserving of the opportunity.

    Morgan has already made his State of Origin debut for Queensland. He played three matches off the bench for last year’s series-winning team.

    Subsequently, Morgan played a huge part in North Queensland’s grand final win, brilliantly drawing the defence in before putting winger Kyle Feldt over for the try that forced golden point extra time against Brisbane.

    Morgan, at five-eighth, and halfback Thurston combine brilliantly for the Cowboys and it makes sense they would do the same for Australia. Why wait any longer to put Morgan in? Do it now and get the transition over with.

    It will well be that Morgan will be named as the reserve back for the game against the Kiwis anyway.
    Cronk’s Melbourne team have won five of their first seven games, but they are not doing anything stunning. They traditionally get good results early in the season because they are so well prepared by coach Craig Bellamy.

    But after the other teams have long caught up to them in terms of finding their groove and once wear and tear has begun to take its effect , the Storm have not done well at the business end of the season in recent years.

    It will be interesting to see how rival halves Cronk and Shaun Johnson, of the Warriors, fare when they play opposite each other in the Anzac Day night clash at AAMI Park.

    And that is the other thing. New Zealand can select a fantastic halves pairing comprising Kieran Foran and Johnson, who are both just 25.

    It appears inevitable that Anthony Milford, who is still only 21 but setting the NRL alight for Brisbane, will be in the halves for both Queensland and Australia eventually.

    The Maroons have banned him from Origin this year because he was one of the players who broke curfew at a pre-season emerging Origin players’ camp and Australia coach Mal Meninga has indicated he will recognise that banning at Test level for next month’s game at least.

    But it wouldn’t surprise if, eventually, Milford and Morgan are paired in the halves for both Queensland and Australia, with Morgan most probably at halfback.

    So why not get Morgan into the starting side now at Test level. It wouldn’t be rushing him and it wouldn’t be handing out a jumper too easily. It would be giving him what he deserves, based on his form going back a while now.

    Then Australia could plan ahead to the Four Nations with Morgan and Thurston as the halves and look even further down the track to the World Cup, where Milford could be on the bench behind that pair.

    After that, presuming the World Cup is Thurston’s representative swansong, Milford should be ready to make the step up to join Morgan in the starting side.

    Greg Prichard
    Greg Prichard

    Greg Prichard has spent all of his working life in the media, from way back when journalists were still using typewriters. He has covered rugby league, football, AFL and various other sports for News Limited and Fairfax newspapers and also worked for magazines, radio and pay television. Twitter: @gregprichard

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    The Crowd Says (22)

    • Roar Rookie

      April 25th 2016 @ 9:10am
      up in the north said | April 25th 2016 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      Can’t argue with any of that. Good sense isn’t a trait we see very often though.

    • April 25th 2016 @ 9:39am
      jimmmy said | April 25th 2016 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      Yeah right. Drop Cronk ,he’s no good any more. Have a look at his record my friend. the guy is a winner. Drop him from the Kangaroos but pick him for QLD?
      Do what QLD do . Thurston, Cronk and Morgan on the bench.
      Morgo is a fantastic player but he is no Cooper Cronk. At the Cows we have Coote who Plays a lot at first receiver and is a great left foot kick. He takes a lot of pressure off JT. This is not Morgan’s best suite.The great thing about Morgo is he can slot in anywhere . Depending on how the game is going, you can bring him on if we are chasing points or leave Cronk on if we are trying to close a game out.
      Cronk has earn the right to be there.

    • April 25th 2016 @ 9:40am
      PNG Broncos fan88 said | April 25th 2016 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      Morgan is like the 6th man in basketball, brilliant in supporting roles but ordinary as the leading man. This is a ridiculous comparison, Morgan is not even a halfback — more of a running 5/8.
      Hunt and Mbye to fight it out after Cronk farewells on his own terms.

      • April 25th 2016 @ 12:10pm
        Griffo said | April 25th 2016 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

        Actually I wouldn’t say he’s not a halfback, I just think he hasn’t been required to play it much for the Cowboys. He did play in the junior grades as a halfback and I wouldn’t put it past him. His passing and running games are excellent, he’s taken on more of the kicking this season. Realistically all that’s left is the game management that a halfback does and hopefully that’s something he can learn when he needs to. Even Thurston has learnt a lot about game management over the years with the Cowboys.

    • April 25th 2016 @ 9:47am
      Dean - Surry Hills said | April 25th 2016 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      I’d pair Morgan with Cronk.

      Thurston is the weak link in defence, and The Kiwis will continue to run at him all day.

    • April 25th 2016 @ 10:02am
      Jay said | April 25th 2016 @ 10:02am | ! Report

      What a regression for dce though. Hard to see him getting a run for qld yet alone aus given Morgan, hunt, hilf, mbye infornt of him!

    • Roar Guru

      April 25th 2016 @ 11:04am said | April 25th 2016 @ 11:04am | ! Report

      Hi Greg,
      I get your logic for the future but here is the big problem.
      Milford and Morgan are both world class and Milf will take over from JT as the best in the game when he retires, but neither Milf or Morgs can “run a team”.
      I have seen them both in the General’s role and they both struggle, but when you put an organiser next to them they shine.
      When Cooper and JT are ready to call it a day, I will be shocked if the Maroons do not go with the Broncos combination of Hunt and Milford.
      This is not to say that Hunt is a better player than Morgan, but Hunt has the advantage of club chemistry with Milford and since being coached by Kev Walters last year under Bennett, he has improved his fifth tackle options immensely. He has graduated from a Sargent to a General.
      If Hunt and Milford are the next Maroon halfs then it would be foolhardy for Mal to change.
      Having said all of that, if I had the power of Kev Walters and Mal Meninga I would play Milford at fullback which would allow Morgan to slot in next to Hunt. Milford is freakish with 1 on his shirt and gives him more room and less tackles to make.
      Lest we forget……..

      • Roar Guru

        April 25th 2016 @ 3:52pm
        Michael Keeffe said | April 25th 2016 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

        totally agree with this. Milford & Morgan are both exceptional players but both are primarily running halves. Hunt will be the long term 7 with both these two in the squad, one at 6 and the other on the bench.

      • April 26th 2016 @ 7:52am
        planko said | April 26th 2016 @ 7:52am | ! Report

        Same reason why Hodkinson and Reynolds were a good combination especially when in form.

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