Pressure on Morgan to step up for Cowboys' premiership hopes
IF NORTH Queensland is to get another crack at winning the club's first premiership next month, five-eighth Michael Morgan must step up and take some pressure off star playmaker Johnathan Thurston against Cronulla on Saturday night.
Cowboys coach Paul Green says the Sharks deserve to be favourites given they have come out on top in their two clashes this season, and also eliminated defending premiers South Sydney convincingly last weekend.
"They're a tough team who play a tough brand of footy. They've got some players in good form and they come up here, like us, with their season on the line."
Morgan's return from a high ankle sprain in North Queensland's 16-12 qualifying final loss to Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night was sound defensively, but there was little of the attacking spark that draws the focus away from Thurston.
Brisbane zeroed in on Thurston and confidently handled the Cowboys' attack for most of the clash.
Green admitted Morgan's timing was a little off against the Broncos, but said he was confident the Queensland Origin utility would be much better for the outing.
"He was probably a little bit rusty," the coach said.
"Those key combinations, the more games you play, they just get better and better."
Meanwhile hard-working Sharks forward Chris Heighington said hooker Michael Ennis, the game's chief antagonist, has been the "buy of the year" for the Sharks who have gone from wooden spooners to within two wins of their first grand final appearance since 1997.
Ennis' ability to irritate his rivals often detracts from his football skills.
But there is no doubt his experience and leadership have played a vital role in the Sharks being in a good position to capture the club's first premiership since entering the competition in 1967.
Ennis, who missed last year's grand final due to suspension, was a relieved man after his early guilty plea to a careless high tackle on South's forward Chris McQueen cleared the way for him to play against the Cowboys.
"It's awesome that he's playing, he's been the buy of the year," said Heighington who believes the Sharks will play Melbourne the following weekend for a place in the October 4 grand final.
Exciting young Cronulla winger Valentine Holmes (cork) has been a clutch player in the run to the finals and is expected to play if he gets through training tomorrow.
The Sharks surprised with the ease in which they brushed aside the Rabbitohs 28-12 last weekend, whereas the Cowboys used up plenty of petrol in their loss to Brisbane in a high-intensity clash.
"Sudden-death football has come a week earlier than we expected, but the rewards for winning now are massive," Green said.