CHANGED MAN: Michael Morgan has become a better player, says Ben Ikin.
CHANGED MAN: Michael Morgan has become a better player, says Ben Ikin. Mark Metcalfe

I was wrong about Morgan, says NRL 360 host Ben Ikin

BEN Ikin is happy to admit that Michael Morgan has proven him wrong and that the Cowboys playmaker is capable of leading his side to an upset grand final win over the Melbourne Storm.

In the initial absence of Johnathan Thurston, the NRL 360 co-host and 2000 premiership winner had his doubts whether Morgan could take the next step towards becoming a "great playmaker", but those doubts have been extinguished.

Thurston played his last game for the year in State of Origin II on June 21 before being ruled out for the season and having shoulder surgery.

As the Cowboys prepared for their round 17 clash with Canberra away, Ikin made a prediction to his NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent.

"I remember having a conversation heading into that game with Paul after our daily NRL 360 coffee and saying 'I don't think Michael Morgan has the feel required to be a great playmaker'," Ikin recalled.

"I said he'd be a great support for someone that has got that ability but I can't see him taking the step required this year for the Cowboys to remain in the mix.

"Then on cue, as it normally happens, he has come out in that Canberra game and done everything I thought he wasn't capable of and steered the Cowboys to victory.

"He used all his raw natural ability but took the next step towards being a great playmaker with his maturity, composure and game management."

Morgan hasn't looked back since and Ikin now insists he is capable of leading the Cowboys to an upset victory over the Storm in the decider.

"The thing I am battling is that the logic I used to say that the Cowboys couldn't go beyond the first week of the finals is the same logic I used to say they couldn't go beyond the second and third week," Ikin said,

"I am looking at this game logically again and realising that my logic is probably flawed.

"Going on the last three weeks, if you ask me if Michael Morgan is capable of helping the Cowboys get past the Storm, based on what I have seen...then I would say 'yes, he is'.

"Everything that has been put to him, and to those 17 Cowboys players as a group, they have been able to overcome."

Ikin said that Morgan had spoken of making a conscious decision when Thurston was injured to up the ante and be better if the Cowboys were to figure in finals footy.

Easier said than done, but Morgan has delivered on his words.

"He has just continued to improve once he decided what was required of him," Ikin said.

"It was like he needed to consciously put a few extra things on his list and set the bar higher for himself. Then he just took the next step to get there."

Ikin said Morgan's mindset and actions were Cameron Smith-like and highlighted why.

"Coming into Origin III Cameron Smith said 'OK, I haven't been great. I need to be better and this is where I need to be better," Ikin said.

Smith had made the point that he needed to run more from dummy half and improve on his performance in the second Origin clash.

"Then in the toughest form of rugby league on the planet Cameron just went out and did what he said he was going to do and got man of the match in Game Three," Ikin said.

"We found out that Michael Morgan had a conversation with himself and his coach and said 'I need to be better here, here and here' and he went out and did it.

"Humble and laid back guys often only produce what is required of them and while JT has been around there has been no requirement for Morgan to be the player we are currently seeing.

"In the dynamic of that team he has shaped himself to play a role outside of Thurston.

"He then got his head around the fact the Cowboys needed him to add a few of JT's things onto his own list and he's gone 'OK, let's do it'."

News Corp Australia


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