Morley making way for the main course

The year 1997 has much to do to top 1996 for Adrian Morley, but such is the potential of the Leeds second-row forward that it could prove the main course following the appetizer.

A year ago, Morley was an 18-year-old the limit of whose ambitions was to establish himself in the Leeds first team. Not only did he do that - emerging as just about Leeds' only consistent performer during a miserable first Super League season - but he also toured with Great Britain in the autumn, when his form was one of the few bright spots on that ill-starred trip.

"All I started off wanting to do was to cement my place in the Leeds first team," he says. "The next thing I was in there and people were telling me that I was playing well.

"I got into the England team and I couldn't believe that - and then I found myself on the tour. People had told me that I'd got a chance, but I didn't think I was playing that well."

But Morley made that tour party on merit and should show the benefit of the experience during the second Super League season. "Playing with all those top-class players, you're going to learn a lot from them. I believe I've come back a much better player."

Morley was particularly grateful for the support and encouragement of the tour party's most experienced international - Denis Betts, like him a second-rower and a Salford lad. "That meant a lot to me, with Denis being from the same area and playing the same position. He was a tremendous help to me on tour."

As a Salfordian, Morley might have been expected to gravitate to a Lancashire club, like his brother, Chris, who plays in St Helens' pack. He was not short of offers, but Leeds, and the silver tongue of their then manager, Doug Laughton, lured him over the Pennines to Headingley.

"Doug came to our house and he's a very persuasive man. But it was when I went to the ground and saw the facilities that I knew that was where I wanted to be."

What Morley could not have known two and a half years ago was that Leeds were about to lose the unwanted tag of bridesmaids - but only because wedding invitations were about to dry up completely. Last season, the first of Super League and his first as an established first-teamer, saw them win only six games and finish above only Workington Town and Paris St-Germain.

One man who could not be blamed for that was Morley who, in an inversion of the normal logic, often seemed to be carrying more experienced forwards who were under-performing. He believes it will be very different this time. There is a new regime at Leeds, under the new chief executive, Gary Hetherington, and, he says, a new atmosphere at pre-season training.

"There have been some major new signings and a player like Richie Blackmore is going to be a big boost for us. There is just a new feeling at training; a lot more confidence around the place than there was last year. And that crowd of 14,000 for the friendly against Halifax on Boxing Day shows how much potential there is at the place."

If 1997 can easily be infinitely better than its predecessor for the club, there is only one thing about his own performances in 1996 that Morley would change. His one source of regret is the incident that cost Great Britain the first Test in New Zealand, just minutes after Morley had come on to make his debut.

The young forward was sin-binned - harshly, it seemed at the time - for holding down in the tackle and, in the eight minutes remaining, the Kiwis scored the two tries that gave tham a 17-12 victory. "I still can't bring myself to look at the tape of that match," he says. "It went from being the best day of my life to being one of the worst."

One of Morley's staunchest supporters, the Great Britain manager, Phil Lowe, believes that the misadventure exposed the one real flaw in the player's current capabilities. It might have something to do with carrying so much responsibility at Leeds, but Morley is guilty at times of over- enthusiasm.

One of the many things he will have learned on tour is to temper that tendency. Once he absorbs that lesson and displays the cool head to go with his speed, strength and remarkable agility, Leeds and Great Britain will have a world-class second-rower at their disposal for a decade or more.

Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Project Administrator

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: International Trade Advisors - Hertfordshire or Essex

£30000 - £35379 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is based in Welwyn ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Controller - Response Centre

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn