Morgan and his Magpies mending the heartache at Souths

Sat, Jun 22, 2024, 12:17 AM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Souths head coach Garrick Morgan (Image: QRU Media)
Souths head coach Garrick Morgan (Image: QRU Media)

The mighty job being done by coach Garrick Morgan and his high-flying Magpies has put a smile back on faces at a Souths club stricken by 12 months of emotional hits.

The Magpies meet premiers Brothers at Chipsy Wood Oval on Saturday for the Welsby Cup in Round 12 of the StoreLocal Hospital Cup.

On form, it’s a pinnacle clash of the two clubs most sharpened to go deep in the August finals this season.

Only devout Magpies will know how deep the pain ran at the club when they lost four club stalwarts in quick succession last year.

Peter O’Meara, Ian Cameron, Peter “Doubles” Daley and Stephen Tait were all taken from loved ones and the Souths community in the space of seven months in 2023.

How many matches, memories, mischievous moments and major decisions in the club’s history involved that quartet is too many gauge.

It was one massive heartache heaped on top of another.

As a former Wallaby in some of the greatest Souths teams of the early 1990s, Morgan felt the pain personally when losing former teammates and friends.

“I went to three funerals. It was a tough time for people at Souths in general,” Morgan said.

“Doubles would be in the top bracket of all-time servants to club rugby. ‘Camo’ and ‘Taity’ were special human beings I spent a lot of time with.”

Cameron played more than 300 games for the club across the grades. He was a former Club President, a Life Member and general doer as he was as a policeman.

It pained him that his club had battled through hard times and the 2015 premiership was the only trophy moment over the past two decades.

“It was Camo who asked me about coaching Souths. I was thinking a one-year contract. He was the one who said ‘you need to do three here, mate’,” Morgan said.

There are no quickie success stories in club rugby.

Morgan makes no apologies for rebuilding the Magpies with fundamentals last season and coping taunts of “boring.”

That fibre has been the springboard into a team with greater confidence and a broader game style this season.

The Magpies have had an excellent 7-2 start to 2024 with players like flanker Kohan Herbert making a telling impact in virtually every match.  

Having some star dust from Reds squad players Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, Taj Annan and John Bryant in 2023-24 has been a big plus.

Reds forward Connor Vest is a big “in” against Brothers. He will play blindside flanker while Annan will slide into flyhalf with McLaughlin-Phillips away with the Australian Under-20s.

Losing powerful inside centre Vilikesa Raboiliku to a knee niggle is a blow but the return of experienced Alofa Alofa in his place shows the club’s new-found depth.

“We’re looking forward to this one against Brothers. You don’t have to say much to the players. They are a pretty self-motivated group,” Morgan said.

“It’s going to be a great game, a top of the table clash of the best attack in the comp against the best defence.”

Morgan sees the broader landscape too.

“It’s good to see more smiles around the club. We’d like to see more of the Souths community turn out at Chipsy Wood too,” Morgan said.

“For me, I think one of the biggest things at the club has been bringing back stability. I’m talking coaches, players and off the field.

“We’re in a change cycle. The juniors are more connected to the club too and we know how important they are to any club’s future.”

The Welsby Cup is always played between the top two clubs from the first round of fixtures when they next meet up.

No one wants to be a June champion but just maybe this is a pointer to a bigger match-up in August.  

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