The twin brother of Brett and the son of Steve ‘Slippery’ Morris, he had the right pedigree, but Josh Morris never enjoyed an armchair ride into the Dragons system, biding his time at the Kiama Knights before earning his way into the junior rep scene.
“The first time I got picked for a rep side was for the Steelers when I was 18. I was overlooked before then,” Morris began. “Then I debuted in the NRL in 2007 as a fullback, 89kgs. I still had a bit of growing to do. It was the Titans first game, up there, 40,000 people, we got the win as well.”
From there it was a rapid rise, with Morris now a veteran of over 280 NRL games, six Tests for Australia and 15 Origin matches for NSW, going on to reach the highest levels in what has been an illustrious career.
In an all-encompassing chat with Chad Townsend on his Talk of the Town podcast, Morris explained the journey, one which now sees him play a crucial role at the Cronulla club some 14-seasons since that memorable NRL debut.
He spoke about being forced out of the Dragons when Wayne Bennett was appointed coach ahead of the 2008 season, his time at the Bulldogs and how he happened to become a Shark.
Morris was upfront and honest in the extensive Talk of the Town interview, one which covered a variety of topics in Townsend’s first podcast for 2020.
“Wayne came in and pretty much halved my deal,” Morris revealed when quizzed about his switch from the Dragons, the club the family had supported since the brothers Morris were kids. “It was very tough. I thought, I’d grown up here and I’d play the rest of my career at the Dragons.”
From there it was the Bulldogs, with a new coach at the time recognising Morris’s potential, offering a permanent shift to the centres and into a position he would go on to represent club, country and state.
“Kevin Moore had been appointed the coach at the Bulldogs for 2009 and he had belief and confidence in me. He said he saw me as a centre,” Morris said. “I remember that 2009 season, the football we played and the fun we had. It was a memorable season.”
Ten years, two Grand Finals and a lifetime or memories later, Morris’s stint at the Bulldogs would come to and end in unfortunate circumstances.
The salary cap bit the Bulldogs hard, with both Josh and brother Brett forced to look elsewhere ahead of the 2019 season and by luck, fate, good management, or a combination of all three, Morris became a Shark as Brett headed to the Roosters.
“I left on great terms, I don’t have any bad blood towards them, none at all,” he said of the Bulldogs. “They had salary cap problems, which was pretty well documented at the time.
“They didn’t really have an offer for us, they said they didn’t want to disrespect us with an offer they knew we were going to say no to.
“I thought I’d be heading over to England to play, then the Sharks deal just kind of fell into place. Jesse (Ramien) ended up going to Newcastle and Ricky (Leutele) went to Toronto in the space of a couple of weeks.
“It worked out perfectly. I’d known a lot of boys from living in the area for the last 10 years, so I didn’t feel like a newcomer walking in. That first day of school, first day of pre-season training, I wasn’t nervous, I was excited,” Morris said.
After a strong first summer as a Shark, one he remembers to be amongst the most productive of his career, Morris was an immediate success, also mentoring the likes of Bronson Xerri, Ronaldo Mulitalo and the other young outside backs along the way.
But it wasn’t all about just bringing through the next crop, with Morris Sharks leading try scorer in 2019 as his form earned him a State of Origin recall, a NSW selection representing his first blue jersey since the 2016 series.
Morris credited a change-up in the training environment to his success throughout last season, while also highlighting the moment when he really felt a part of the Sharks despite him being the new kid on the block.
“I’ve found (the gym sessions) very different at the Sharks. They’re a lot longer, more core focused, but I’ve really enjoyed them. Last year heading into the season I was stronger and more powerful than I’ve felt in a number of years.
“As you get older you can look for excuses. Those little goals you tick off, certainly help you with your confidence and let you know you are still able to do it.”
As for the Origin call-up, following a Sharks win against the Dragons in Wollongong Morris got the whisper his name was set to be read out in the NSW team for game one of the 2019 series.
With players winding down and celebrating a strong performance at WIN Stadium, coach John Morris delivered the news to the room, with the team erupting and embracing Josh, genuinely excited for their Sharks teammate.
As he explained to Townsend it was then and there he knew he was in the right place.
“That was the moment I really felt a part of the team. It’s something I’ll never forget,” Morris expressed.
Great players. Morris has seen and played with a plenty. Coaches. He’s learnt from some of the best, while as for leaders, his choice as the most inspirational captain might surprise, with the quietly spoken former Bulldogs skipper Andrew Ryan rated by Morris to be up there with the best of them.
“He has a saying, 'tough times don’t last, tough people do'. And he was one of the toughest,” Morris said. “He didn’t talk too much, but when he did, people listened. He could get you up, but he could back it up.”
To watch or listen to the full Morris interview, see below the various links to the latest edition of the Chad Townsend, Talk of the Town Podcast.