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John Morris: NRL's unlikely 300-gamer

Cronulla hooker John Morris joins the NRL's 300 club on Monday night as the only member of that exclusive group never to have pulled on a State of Origin or international jersey.
John Morris: NRL's unlikely 300-gamer
by AAP

By Ben Horne

SYDNEY, May 25 AAP - Cronulla hooker John Morris joins the NRL's 300 club on Monday night as the only member of that exclusive group never to have pulled on a State of Origin or international jersey.

It's an against-the-odds journey that got its big break in 2002, when Newcastle flyer Adam MacDougall broke down with a last-minute knee injury.

Knights coach Michael Hagan needed a makeshift winger, and in just his second season of first grade, halfback/hooker Morris was called into action off the bench.

Fifteen games and 11 tries later, the boy from Scone had somewhat of an image problem on his hands

"Another NRL coach at the time enquired about signing me as a winger and I told my manager: `No! I'm not a winger,'" Morris told AAP.

"Scoring off Joey's (Andrew Johns) banana kicks and cut-out balls and Matty Gidley's flick passes was an unbelievable experience. But I was totally out of position. I didn't know what I was doing."

Morris hasn't managed to shake that image problem - he's played every position on the rugby league field except front row.

Not a bad effort for a 181cm, 90kg ball-player who will become just the 19th player to make 300 NRL appearances for his fourth club, the Sharks, against South Sydney at Remondis Stadium on Monday.

And it's not just Morris' almost unprecedented versatility that makes his achievement so meritorious.

By his own admission, the 33-year-old wasn't blessed with the talent, skill, size and speed of the NRL's greats.

Yet rather than go down as just another player, the Sharks hooker has set himself apart from Lockyer, Lamb, Menzies, Fittler and everyone else to have played 300, as the only man to have fought on to the milestone without a rep jersey to show for it.

It's a badge of honour Morris will wear proudly.

"I guess it shows there's still a place in the game for good old hard work and dedication," he said.

"If you stick at something long enough and you put all your effort into it you can still have a long and successful career.

"There's players at every club who aren't rep players but who are still very important to their clubs."

He's starred on the end of the Knights' magical backline, toiled in the middle of the Parramatta scrum and was head-hunted as Scott Prince's replacement at halfback for the Wests Tigers.

Now he's given more than 100 games of service for Cronulla since joining them in 2010, and Morris hasn't ruled out playing on next year for a 15th season.

Morris won't play for another club other than the Sharks, and if he can't continue his career, he hopes to explore a coaching career at the club.

He puts his longevity down to his luck with injury, the grounding he received at Newcastle, his meticulous preparation learnt from Tim Sheens and the support of his wife and family.

"It's very surreal and it'll be a proud moment. I'll be humbled to join that group," Morris said.




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