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Page last updated at 10:46 GMT, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 11:46 UK

Morley drinking in the last chance saloon

By Paul Fletcher

Adrian Morley in action for Sydney City Roosters
Morley had a successful five-year stint in Australia with the Roosters

England enforcer Adrian Morley is that rarest of breeds in rugby league - a Pom who is respected down under.

It is a reputation forged with a series of outstanding performances for Great Britain and England but largely during a five-season stint in the NRL with the Sydney City Roosters.

To prove yourself to the Aussies you have to do it in their own back yard - and yet that almost didn't happen.

The first time Morley travelled to Australia was for a World Nines tournament in 1997.

It was February and Townsville, in the north of Queensland, was stifling, unbearably humid. Morley thought the weather was like that across all of Australia and decided it was just too hot to consider playing there full-time.

Eventually, someone put him right and he left Leeds for Sydney in 2001.

Morley still has a property close to the beach in Sydney, enjoys residency status in Australia and is not adverse to the idea of moving back to the country that took to him after a mediocre first season.

His partner also enjoyed the lifestyle in Australia and will combine watching Morley playing for England at the forthcoming World Cup with catching up with the friends the couple made during their years down under.

They have a son, Leo, who is now 21 months, and after the tournament Morley intends to show him off down at the beach (a plan complicated by England coach Tony Smith's insistence that players must return home on the official team flight after the tournament).

But all that lies several weeks in the future.

Between now and the conclusion of England's forthcoming World Cup campaign, the polite, approachable, doting father will give way to Morley the on-field monster, smashing his through the opposition with a savage will to succeed.

We are not going there to make up the numbers, we are going there to win it

Adrian Morley

Because Morley is 31 now and understands that this is his last chance to put one over on the Australians good and proper.

"I'm a realist and I know the ride isn't going to last forever," Morley told BBC Sport. "It does play on your mind that you might not get another crack at it."

Great Britain have won Tests against the Kangaroos in recent years but never clinched an Ashes or Tri-Nations series victory.

To win the World Cup in Australia, therefore, would be extra special. But the Warrington front rower knows it will not be easy.

Morley, who was a member of the England team that disappointed at the last World Cup in 2000, rates the current Australians as a fine side and acknowledges that they start the competition as favourites.

However, he has no time for the view that the tournament is no more than a procession for the home nation, seeking to be crowned champions for the 10th time in their centenary year.

"We are not going there to make up the numbers, we are going there to win it," added Morley.


England play Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand in their group, with three teams qualifying for a semi-final berth.

The opening game, on 25 October, sees Morley return to Townsville for a fixture against PNG.

"It is a tough place to go, difficult to reach your physical peak, but it is massively important that we get off to a winning start," he said.

"The conditions will suit PNG more than us but we have prepared well, training in heat chambers, and I think we will win and win well."

Morley is hoping the Melbourne weather creates conditions to suit the England players for their match against the Kangaroos and expects a physically challenging encounter against the meaty Kiwi pack in their final group game.

And he believes that the England squad has the right ingredients to succeed where so many others have failed.

The blend of youth and experience, the confidence gained from victories over New Zealand and France, the motivation of Tony Smith to succeed against the country of his birth, the surprise packages in Rob Purdham and Ben Westwood - Morley is quick to point out many reasons why this time it is not just talk.

He also agrees with the coach's belief that the brand of rugby in Super League is more exciting and expansive than the National Rugby League (NRL).

"Forwards in Super League probably take a few more risks whereas the NRL is a bit more regimented, playing the percentages," said the Salford-born player.

Adrian Morley in action for Great Britain
Morley was part of the team that defeated New Zealand 3-0 last year

"Players like James Graham can do the robot stuff but they also have a bit of flair, and Tony will encourage the players to use that."

Of course, even if Super League is more exciting than the NRL, it does not automatically mean the standard is higher or that England have a team capable of competing with the Kanagroos.

But Morley insists: "Our best 17 can match theirs. We have to make sure that we get it right on the day."

Crucial to this will be ensuring that all 17 England players remain available throughout the game.

The lowest point of Morley's career came after just 12 seconds of a Test match against Australia in 2003 when he was dismissed for a high tackle on Robbie Kearns.

Back then, Morley used to worry so much about what might go wrong that he would almost make himself sick before a big game. That led to what he calls a "major overheat" by the time he took to the field.

"I was too wound up for that game and it was the worst moment of my rugby life," said Morley.

Over time he has learnt to relax and savour each and every international appearance.

But he still hits as hard and fiercely as ever, throwing himself into every tackle and ball carry.

And when the action starts down under, his love of Australia will be temporarily forgotten.

"To win the World Cup would be a dream come true and put every other achievement in the shade," said Morley.

"If we get it right we'll be bringing the trophy home."

see also
Purdham earns World Cup call-up
07 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Morley gets Warrington captaincy
17 Jan 08 |  Warrington
GB captaincy changed me - Morley
23 Jun 07 |  Rugby League
Morley to captain Great Britain
09 Jun 07 |  Rugby League
Morley let-off angers Aussies
11 Nov 03 |  Rugby League
Rugby League World Cup squads
14 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Rugby League World Cup 2008 fixtures
08 Oct 08 |  Rugby League
Rugby league on the BBC
06 Oct 08 |  Rugby League


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