Cowboys captain under the pump
NORTH Queensland captain Michael Morgan has accepted the pressure is on him to help carry the Cowboys out of the NRL's cellar in 2020.
Morgan and the Cowboys returned to the training paddock this week as they prepare to bounce back from the club's worst season in a decade.
The Cowboys slumped to 14th on the ladder last year on the back of finishing 13th in 2018, Johnathan Thurston's final season in the NRL.
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The heat is on premiership-winning coach Paul Green to guide the Cowboys back into NRL title contention.
To do that, Green has called on the likes of Morgan and star forwards Jason Taumalolo and vice-captain Jordan McLean to step up in 2020 following the departure of Thurston and club stalwart Matt Scott.
After a poor 2019 campaign, Morgan said he was comfortable with the expectation on his shoulders.
"As captain of the club that's what I'm expected to do," he said.
"Greeny had a chat with me after (challenging me to step up) to let me know he wasn't putting too much pressure on us.
"Without it being said, there is expectations on myself from me personally. I put them on myself.
"The external talk, pressure and expectation I try not to worry about because if I'm doing well here and everyone is comfortable and happy with me and Greeny is happy then I'm happy with that."
Morgan, 28, assumed the captaincy from Thurston and Scott last year. At his peak, the 160-game playmaker has been one of the most dangerous players in the NRL over the past five years.
Morgan produced the incredible play to help North Queensland win the 2015 grand final and went on a golden run to pilot the Cowboys to the 2017 decider. But the Queensland Origin and Kangaroos representative admitted 2019 was not his finest season and he was hoping to learn from his experiences.
"It was a little bit of a rollercoaster - some good, some bad," Morgan said. "You're always learning (about leadership). I don't think you ever perfect it.
"You're always growing as a person and you want to be getting better at what you do. The naming of the captaincy came out really late last year, the week before the season.
"This year we've had the pre-season knowing I'm going to be the captain. It's been nice to have it settled and a smoother transition."
The Cowboys struggled for consistency across the field last year.
Injuries, form and representative duties contributed to the Cowboys experimenting with four fullbacks, five five-eighths and three halfbacks throughout the season.
Morgan also went away from the strength of his game - running - as the Cowboys lost their way.
"My strength for my own game was always my running game and I lost that a little bit last year," he said.
"The back end of the year I ran a lot more than what I did throughout the season and they were some of my better games.
"I'll try to (run more) this year. It's been encouraged to get that back into my game. It was always a strength and I went away from it trying to improve other areas."
Morgan has reunited with close friend Valentine Holmes, the Cowboys' star recruit for 2020.
Morgan said Holmes had fit into the Cowboys seamlessly following his one-year sojourn wit the New York Jets in the NFL.
"He's brought a few different things for us in terms of footy that we had missed a little bit before he got here," he said.
"He's very quick around the back. You give him half a chance … you only have to look at his highlight reels to see what he can do.
"When he first got back he was finding his feet back in the game a little bit.
"Everyone talked about it being this huge transition for him but it really wasn't that long. People have longer off when they're injured than what he had and he was still training and keeping fit.
"It hasn't taken him too long. He's looking very good."