Morley eyes double
Warrington Wolves captain Adrian Morley feared his career was over earlier this year but is now hoping to end the season on a personal high by leading his side to the elusive double.
The Wolves will go to Old Trafford tomorrow as favourites to repeat their Wembley win over Leeds Rhinos and become only the third club in the Super League era to win the Grand Final trophy and the Challenge Cup in the same season.
The 35-year-old former Sydney Rooster, who is already the only British player to have won Grand Finals on both sides of the world, will make more history by taking over from Paul Anderson as the oldest man to play in a Super League Grand Final.
Yet running out at Old Trafford was the last thought on Morley’s mind back in the summer when he seriously contemplated hanging up his boots after specialists were unable to get to the bottom of an eye injury.
“I went to two or three specialists and they couldn’t diagnose what it was,” he said.
“They said don’t play with double vision but there was double vision all the time virtually.
“It got to the point when I sat down with (coach) Tony Smith and said this could potentially be career-ending. It was a very sobering thought.
“It was disappointing just to have the conversation but I got my head around it and thought ’if that’s it, then so be it’.
“I was 34 at the time and the more I thought about it I realised I'd had a good career, so I couldn’t really complain.
“I had a couple of weeks thinking ’this could be it’ but, luckily, another specialist had a look at it and said ’I think I can help you’.
“I had the operation and, although it wasn’t 100%, it was miles better than it was and then I had a little top-up operation this year and it’s fine now.”
Morley subsequently signed a new contract with his club for 2013 and the good news continued this week when he was named in England coach Steve McNamara’s 24-man squad for a training camp in South Africa and the autumn internationals.
He became the most capped British player in rugby league history last November when he made his 50th international appearance in England’s Four Nations final defeat by Australia but his Test career looked to be over when he was ignored for the mid-season matches against the Exiles.
“That was disappointing,” Morley said. “I had a bad neck as well as the eye problem so it was frustrating because they determined my performances.
“It’s not been a vintage year from me by any means and it wasn’t a total surprise when I didn’t make the squad for the Exiles games but it knocked my confidence.
“Without wanting to sound big-headed, I’d been in virtually every international squad for the last decade or so.
“But I made it a goal to try and get my performances back to the level where I am picked on form.
“You don’t want to be picked on reputation or anything like that so to have made the squad I’m delighted.
“I’ve been speaking to Steve quite a bit and I’d love to represent England again. It’s a really big honour for me.”
Before packing his bags for South Africa, however, Morley is aiming to help deliver Warrington their first championship for 57 years after reaching their maiden Grand Final.
“For a club as big as Warrington, it’s too long really,” he said. “The purists would say finishing top of the pile, which we did last year, defines the champions but that’s not how it is any more.
“You have to win the Grand Final for the right to be called champions. It has been a long time but we’ve a great chance - we’re 80 minutes away.”
Morley appeared in the very first Grand Final for Leeds Rhinos back in 1998, when they lost to Wigan Warriors, and, although he won with Bradford Bulls in 2005, it was only as part of a brief loan spell with the Bulls from the Roosters.
“It was still a great experience but I just didn’t feel part of it because I hadn’t played with those boys all year,” he said.
“But this year I obviously have and, to be part of a Warrington side that goes there and does the job would be pretty special.”