North Queensland coach Paul Green admitted he had to dig deep to inspire gutted pivot Michael Morgan ahead of their NRL knockout semi-final against Cronulla in Townsville.
And it seems Green’s motivational talk worked.
Morgan was a man possessed, scoring two tries as the Cowboys thrashed Cronulla 39-0 to book a grand final qualifier against Melbourne next weekend.
Morgan outshone star playmaker Johnathan Thurston, amassing 100m and three line breaks in a stunning display before leaving the field 15 minutes early to nurse an ongoing ankle complaint.
Yet Green admitted he had to lift Morgan after the five-eighth beat himself up over his quiet return three weeks from the ankle ailment in their 16-12 finals loss to Brisbane last weekend.
“I don’t know about the hardest part but it is an important part of my job,” Green said of getting his players’ heads right.
“He (Morgan) took last week pretty hard but I thought he was too harsh on himself.
“We had to make sure he was in the right head space tonight.”
Morgan admitted he had to compose himself after feeling he did not provide enough assistance to Thurston against Brisbane.
“I was just frustrated with a few parts of my game and a couple of moments within that (Broncos) game I was really annoyed about but it was really good that we had the opportunity to make up for it,” Morgan said.
“Normally I’m pretty harsh on myself after a bad game.
“I was personally a bit down after last week.”
Morgan played down the lingering ankle injury that ensured he had an early night in Townsville.
“I didn’t want to (come off). I could have finished the game,” Morgan said.
“But it was good to get the opportunity to make up for the disappointment of last week.
“I was just frustrated with a few parts of my game.”
Green confirmed Morgan would be fit for their grand final qualifier.
“He’s alright. At that stage of the game there’s no reason him risking hurting his ankle any more than he has been dealing with,” he said of Morgan leaving the field.
Green admitted Morgan was not his only problem after their gutting finals loss to the Broncos, saying he had to find a way to rekindle his team’s fire.
“They were all pretty disappointed after last week and sometimes if you hang onto that for too long it can affect your preparation,” he said.
Green played down concerns for winger Kyle Feldt (knee) and fellow flyer Justin O’Neill who copped a 52nd minute high shot from Wade Graham that landed him on report.