This is the final article in the miniseries that focuses on some of the game’s senior citizens who continue to defy the ageing process.
Following the recent retirement of Cameron Smith at age 37, the NRL’s four elder statesmen at the moment are:
So what is it with these players? How are they still producing the goods week after week after all these years? How did they get here? How long can they keep going?
Today we’ll look at Brett and Josh Morris.
Have there ever been brothers, let alone identical twins, who have had the careers of the Morris boys?
Brett Morris made his first-grade debut for the Dragons as a 19-year-old in Round 9, 2006, lining up outside Matt Cooper. He went on to play 19 games that season and give a glimpse of things to come in crossing for 12 tries, including three doubles.
The 2007 season saw brother Josh get his chance in the big time, running out at fullback for the Dragons in Round 1 following captain Ben Hornby’s move to the halfback role. Brett had to wait until Round 4 for a run in first grade, playing alongside his brother for the first time when he took over the fullback role from Josh, who played on the wing.
Come Round 7 and the season was over for Brett when he suffered a serious shoulder injury. Josh had better luck, playing 23 games that year, alternating between wing and fullback.
The 2008 season saw Brett play 16 games for the Dragons, primarily at fullback, while Josh notched up 23 games and 14 tries, alternating between wing and his preferred position of centre.
The breakthrough year for the Morris twins came in 2009. Josh headed to the Bulldogs in search of a permanent centre role, and this not only gave him the opportunity he always wanted but lessened the competition for a first-grade starting spot at the Dragons for Brett following the arrival of both Wendell Sailor and Darius Boyd at the club.
Josh quickly established himself as one of the best centres in the game that year with the Bulldogs, scoring an incredible 22 tries in 21 games, including four doubles and a treble. He was selected for New South Wals in Origin 2 and 3 that year, crossing for his first Origin try in Game 3.
Brett was also tearing it up on the Dragons left wing, crossing for an equally impressive 25 tries in 24 games, including three doubles, one triple and a quadruple in a game the Dragons actually lost to the Cowboys. Somehow he missed Origin selection in 2009, with the selectors preferring David Williams from Manly.
The year was capped off for the twins when they were both selected for the 2009 Four Nations tournament. Brett played in every game, scoring six tries in four matches, while Josh joined his brother in the Australian team for the first time in the game against France when first-choice centres Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges were rested. Josh also crossed for two tries that day, giving each of the twins a double for the game, a rare feat indeed.
What a year 2009 was for the Morris twins: 46 tries in club games between them, Origin selection for Josh, Australian selection for both and eight international tries between them. All this at the age of 23. Only a premiership was missing.
Come 2010 and Brett Morris had another great season that culminated in a premiership under coach Wayne Bennett. Along the way he played 25 games for the Dragons, scoring 20 tries, including two doubles and two triples, one of which came against brother Josh’s Bulldogs. Brett also made his Origin debut for New South Wales, playing all three games without scoring a try. He scored two tries in the Anzac Test and was again selected in the Four Nations team, playing in all four games and crossing for three tries.
Over at the Bulldogs, Josh had another productive season, crossing for 14 tries in 23 games, including a quadruple against the Roosters, but he failed to make either the New South Wales or the Australian side.
Fast-forward to the end of the 2014 season, and Brett has played a further 83 games for St George Illawarra, scoring another 47 tries. He turned out in another nine games for Australia, picking up another 12 tries, and featured in another seven Origin matches for NSW, scoring three tries.
Meanwhile, brother Brett has played another 84 games for Canterbury, crossing for 33 tries. He represented Australia another five times, picking up two tries, and played for NSW another eight times, scoring two tries.
But something was missing. The twins wanted to play together once again, so Brett signed with Canterbury for the 2015 season.
Over the next four years Brett and Josh formed a lethal left-side partnership for the Bulldogs, playing 68 and 89 games respectively, remarkably crossing for 34 tries each. They also continued their Origin careers, with Brett playing five games for NSW and Josh four, until Brett announced his retirement from representative football in 2017.
At the end of 2018 Canterbury were facing salary cap pressure among other problems, and in their wisdom they decided to part ways with the Morris boys. Now aged 32, they were faced with the prospect of not only finding a new club but also playing against each other once again.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson had no hesitation signing Brett Morris to a one-year contract for 2019. Despite some injury interruptions, Brett had a great year, playing 15 games and scoring another seven tries. He was one of the Roosters’ best players during their successful finals campaign and was rewarded with his second premiership.
Josh, meanwhile, signed with Cronulla for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, having an excellent 2019 with 15 tries from 23 games, including three doubles and a triple. He also played his final game for New South Wales.
The 2020 season saw the brothers surprisingly unite once again when Josh secured a release from Cronulla to join the Roosters after Round 2. Playing together revitalised their careers, and they both played 17 games for the season, with Brett crossing for 12 tries and Josh 11, as the Roosters faltered in their finals campaign.
The 2021 sees the Morris twins still defying the numbers on their birth certificates. They will turn 35 before the season is over, and both are in scintillating form for the Roosters, who are travelling nicely in third place after Round 4.
On a personal level, Brett has crossed for a ridiculous nine tries in four games, including two triples and a double, and he now sits in fourth place on the all-time NRL try-scoring list with 174 career tries. Just seven more tries will take him to third place, while he needs 17 to move into second place behind board leader Ken Irvine, who has 212.
Who’s to say he can’t make it to second place this year? I believe Ken Irvine is the greatest winger to play the game, with Brett Morris now firmly in second place. He just doesn’t get it wrong, whether taking a chance to score a try, shutting down the opposition in defence or taking the high ball. He is still a great athlete, has lost barely any pace and is a great role model both on and off the field.
Josh has scored three tries this year and is now in equal 12th place on the all-time try-scoring list with 152 tries. He needs just 14 more career tries to make it to fifth place. His form this year has been as good as ever, and like brother Brett, he just doesn’t make a mistake out on that left edge. He too is a super athlete and NRL role model. Sure, there are a few young guns who have probably gone past Josh Morris in the centre pecking order these days, but he still brings quality every time he takes the field.
So what does the future hold for the Morris twins? The answer probably lies in whether or not the Roosters can win the competition this year. If they win, that will be Josh’s long-awaited first premiership and Brett’s third, and going out together with a premiership win would probably be a fitting end to their outstanding careers.
If the Roosters don’t win, however, which I believe is the more likely outcome, they may just be tempted to go around one more time. If that’s their wish, and given that they’re apparently not on big-paying contracts, the Roosters may be willing to sign them for just one more year.
Whatever their decision, it’s likely that they’ll make it together.