Brett Morris’ shift to fullback for Canterbury this NRL season shapes as a game changer for NSW ahead of State of Origin II.
So successful was Morris’ move from his left wing to fullback when he switched from St George Illawarra to Canterbury that he was rated the leading fullback in the competition over the first four rounds this season.
Since then the 10-match Origin veteran has been troubled by injury, including a hamstring complaint that kept him out of Origin I last month.
NSW’s back three were blitzed by their Queensland counterparts in Sydney, a key factor in the Maroons’ 11-10 win and Morris’ recall on the left wing is set to influence the Blues’ fortunes at the MCG on Wednesday even more than the return of skipper Paul Gallen.
Fullback Josh Dugan, a key utility in NSW’s series win last year, said Morris’ recent experience at custodian would add another edge to the Blues both in attack and defence.
“It is massive having Brett back,” Dugan said.
“It does help having another fullback and specialist winger there to help me out.
“Playing fullback and wing, being a specialist winger going to fullback, you do learn a lot and you learn where you need to be positionally.
“He’s definitely becoming one of those great fullbacks that is everywhere. That’s just one of the things you need to do.
“As a winger going to fullback and back to wing for State of Origin, that is going to help us.
“He’s a smart player as is but I think it’ll help him in the sense that he’ll be able to read the game a bit better.”
Blues coach Laurie Daley identified the back three as an area NSW need to improve at the MCG if they are to keep their defence of the Origin shield alive.
Apart from his considerable defensive qualities, his try-scoring nous and his ability to run the ball back with venom, Daley said Morris, who has played 18 Tests for Australia, was an important leader within the team.
“He is another guy who is influential in the leadership of the team,” Daley said.
“He brings good positive talk and he is a real finisher, we need a bit more work from our back three.
“He is fit and raring to go. For us those two guys (Morris and Gallen) they have played a lot of Origin, and it means a lot to them when they have missed one.
“It fuels that fire and they never want to be sitting on the sideline and missing out…that is a real positive for us, as is the energy they have brought during the week.”