Cowboys’ Morgan a defensive priority

North Queensland five-eighth Michael Morgan’s size and power rather than his speed are what make him so dangerous in Saturday’s NRL semi-final against Cronulla, Sharks back-rower Wade Graham says.

Curtailing Morgan’s influence on the do-or-die Townsville fixture will be almost as important to the Sharks’ hopes of victory as limiting Johnathan Thurston’s input at 1300 Smiles Stadium.

And that assignment of taking on Morgan from the Sharks’ left edge will fall primarily on Graham.

Graham says the deceptively big Morgan, who has enjoyed a breakthrough year at both NRL and State of Origin level, takes more stopping than your average half.

“He is a great player, he has had a great season. He has really come on this year,” Graham said at training at Remondis Stadium on Wednesday.

“He is always tough to contain. He runs hard, he is hard to bring down too. He looks small but he runs like a back-rower.

“We have come up against him a couple of times this year and we will have a look at that and figure out what worked and what didn’t work and just keep trying to improve that.”

Morgan made his return from an ankle injury in the Cowboys’ qualifying final loss to Brisbane last Saturday and is sure to be better for the run.

The Sharks have had the Cowboys’ measure so far this year.

First they claimed a stirring come-from-behind 24-18 win in round 16 in Townsville, after they were behind 18-0, to end the Cowboys’ 11-match winning streak. Then in round 22 the Sharks beat the Cowboys 30-18 at Remondis Stadium.

“We can take some confidence out of those wins but finals football is something else and we have to be ready for that,” Graham said.

The Sharks have been boosted for their trip north for the do-or-die clash with star winger Valentine Holmes likely to be fit despite picking up a quad injury in their elimination final win over South Sydney on Sunday.

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