Our thanks to Andrew Ferguson for his 2014 piece recounting the story of Edward Larkin, who among ot...
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As the wheels fall off the Parramatta Eels? 2006 campaign, there?s one man out with his jack and wrench wholeheartedly refusing to just throw in the towel and give up on the club he loves so dearly. ?Let?s get this show back on the road,? he yells out to the team before signing yet another autograph for an adoring fan.
With the tactical acumen of a military general who hasn?t lost his grip on reality, he completes drills with the squad, kicking the experienced players into gear and leading by example for the rookies, nurturing them not just as professional rugby league players but decent citizens. As he fumbles the ball for the first time this year, he drops to the ground and begins 100 push-ups, yelling insults at himself in the process. Perhaps he is hard on himself, too hard, but it?s that unrelenting fear of failure and desire to succeed that defines the greatest athletes, Rocky Balboa and Steve Prefontaine two examples of a select few. He is certainly in their class.
In these testing times you won?t find him at team headquarters asking for a contract release and you certainly won?t find him at the Rose and Crown getting drunk before Monday?s pool recovery session. You just might, however, find him at the gym setting a new bench press record, only months after tearing his pectoral muscles rescuing children from a tornado. If John Morris ever turns up late to training you know he?ll have a damn good excuse, like, he was doing his hair real nice.
Seemingly bereft of fresh ideas, the Eels have too much talent to let the season go to waste and too much pride to look elsewhere for answers. Whilst Jason Taylor will be looking to assert his authority as new Parramatta coach from the get-go, the team ultimately requires serious dedication and excellence from every player that dons the blue and gold, but most notably their most stable halves option. ?I know that with Brian gone the weight of expectation is going to fall on my shoulders, but just check them out. Do you think they can?t handle it?? John Morris asks. ?Forget about it!?
John has no time to dwell on the past and certainly no time for excuses. ?I?m not getting into that crap. We?ve got 15 god damn games to turn this season around and we?re going to do just that,? he points out with a sense of purpose. ?We?re going to make the finals and if any player at this club doubts that for even a second they better not tell John Morris about it because I?ll slap them ? that?s what.?
When it comes to John?s views on the indiscretions of his prot?g? Tim Smith, he?s stern yet tactful. ?Of course I was disappointed when Timmy turned up to training drunk, just like I was disappointed when I heard he shaved his head. He had a pretty good style working for him last year and I reckon he should?ve stuck with that, but he?s an adult so ultimately he?s responsible for his own decisions. I?m not surprised about Riddell though, he?s just a fat idiot.? As the Parramatta faithful yearn for the restoration of what once was the NRL?s most lethal halves combination, they will have to settle on John Morris linking up with Jeremy Smith for Friday?s clash with the Panthers. ?Jeremy?s an exciting talent. I really believe I can teach him a thing or two and take his game to a higher level.?
With John?s dedication to the Eels so evident, it?s surprising the club is yet to re-sign the natural five-eighth to play beyond the current season. With names like Jamie Lyon and Kurt Gidley being thrown around it even seems fathomable that Parramatta?s favourite adopted son could leave for another team. ?I?m not out for an inflated Matt Giteau-like contract, which I could well go after mind you, just a figure that fairly represents my value. My desire is to remain at Parramatta above all else, but at the end of the day I understand no individual is greater that the team, not Brian Smith, not John Morris.?
Regardless, John finds himself with more pertinent matters to address. ?Everyone?s talking about a crisis but they?ll forget about that once we start winning. We?ve got the match this Friday, let?s start there,? he states. ?It?s called dignity. Look it up. You?ll find that word in the John Morris Dictionary.?