How Morgan became unlikely YouTube star

SMALL SCREEN FAME: Former Castleford Tigers player Mick Morgan did not realise his infamous commentary on the club's 1994 Regal Trophy final against Wigan was being listened to regularly on the internet until his grandchildren pointed it out. Picture: Steve Riding.
SMALL SCREEN FAME: Former Castleford Tigers player Mick Morgan did not realise his infamous commentary on the club's 1994 Regal Trophy final against Wigan was being listened to regularly on the internet until his grandchildren pointed it out. Picture: Steve Riding.

FOR a younger generation of rugby league fans, he is simply the voice behind one of the most hilarious commentaries ever heard.

However, as elder statesmen in the sport will firmly attest, the ebullient Mick Morgan is so much more than a YouTube hit.

Indeed, it was 50 years ago last week he started his professional career, signing on for Wakefield Trinity despite hailing from Featherstone and becoming such a legend for Castleford, their other fierce rival in that ‘golden triangle’ of West Yorkshire clubs where so much rugby league talent has been nurtured.

It was 40 years ago Morgan, initially a centre but matured into a ball-handling forward, played for England in the 1975 World Cup, taking on New Zealand among other opponents, just as the current national side will do today in the second Test against the touring Kiwis.

But we have to start with THAT commentary.

Taken from the 1994 Regal Trophy final as Castleford – Morgan is still the club’s commentator for in-house DVDs – and in his own unique style (strong Yorkshire accent and unashamedly biased comment), he is truly apoplectic as Kelvin Skerrett, the Wigan prop, collars Andy Hay with a swinging arm.

“Oh, what about that? Send him off. Send the dirty g*t off. Get him off the field. That wa’ diabolical. Get him off the field.

“That’s just typical what he is. If you’ve got any bottle (referee) Campbell he should walk. It’s gunna be a yellow card. I can’t spayke. You bottleless g*t Campbell.”

When Castleford prop Lee Crooks scores a try from the resultant penalty Morgan adds “shove it up yours” and “he’s the best prop in the world, never mind anyone else.”

It is comedy gold and, unsurprisingly, garnered yet more laughs when applied on YouTube to the footage of London Mayor Boris Johnson knocking over a small Chinese boy when playing rugby during a recent photo opportunity.

Did Morgan – now 67 and still actively working on the club’s, lottery among other roles – ever imagine people would still be talking about it now?

“No and I don’t know who put it on,” he laughs.

“I’m not computer minded – I’ve not even got a mobile phone –and it’s my grandkids who tell me what’s going on.

“Apparently they put it on (Brazil’s) Neymar in the World Cup as well and FIFA made them take it off. Censured by FIFA...

“I did get heated at times, though. You get into things and I just came out with stuff. I’m a fan, aren’t I? I forget a lot of them – I’ve been in the game 50 years now – but there was loads of people mentioning things on the Cas website the other day.

“One bloke had put ‘The last time Cas got a penalty Gail Platt was on her first husband’.

“I do remember that one. And then there was when (prop) Danny Ward went 60 yards for a try and I just said a throwaway line but it sticks… ‘He doesn’t go that far on his holidays’.”

It is all a far cry from when Morgan was creating the headlines for his performances on the pitch.

His career high was arguably representing England in 1975 when the World Cup consisted of a new ‘world series’ format spread over eight months and five different countries.

Coached by the legendary Alex Murphy, Morgan recalls: “I’d made my debut earlier that season over in Perpignan. I’d never flown in my life and used to go to Blackpool for my holidays so it felt absolutely fantastic.

“We were a bit unlucky in that World Cup as they never had a final, just a table, and Australia finished top, a point in front of us in second. Wales beat us at Lang Park in Brisbane 10-6 and those two points cost us the World Cup. The Aussies hadn’t actually beaten us and didn’t like that so they got the RFL to organise a (final) game at Headingley but Murph wouldn’t coach it and he told everyone not to play.

“Blokes who did play in that never got capped.

“The game I enjoyed most was drawing with the Aussies 10 apiece at Sydney Cricket Ground.

“They were favourites and we were getting beat with two or three minutes to go, but then scored an unbelievable try when Bridgey (Featherstone’s Keith Bridge) – the best ball-getter I’ve known – came up with the best hook I’d ever seen.

“It was their feed and the loose had detached. Bridgey didn’t even strike until Tommy Raudonikis – or Tommy Ridiculous as Terry Clawson would call him – was about to pick the ball up, then these legs just came through and raked it right back.

“Steve Nash gave a simple drop off for Ken Gill to score under the posts and it was all about those two after the game with the press but I thought ‘Nah, Bridgey...’

“I came off the bench when we drew with New Zealand, too, at Carlaw Park in Auckland and we beat them at Odsal, but on that tour Murph found me a place in every game. I had some utility value as I could play hooker and loose forward and they were smashing times on tour.”

Morgan had begun his career as a centre, but admitted that wasn’t technically quite true.

“I made my debut on the wing at Batley on April Fools’ Day 1967,” he said.

“It couldn’t have been more apt; I dropped every pass Foxy (Wakefield centre Neil Fox) gave me. He put one in my hand and I still dropped it I was that nervous, it being my first ever game.

“I played against Doncaster the next fixture thinking it could only get better and it did as I won the John Player man of the match and got six quid.

“I’d been working on the Saturday morning before my third game when my manager said I’d got a telegram. It turned out I was playing the Aussies that afternoon so he told me I’d better get off.”

Morgan played more than 250 games for Trinity, moving on to York, Featherstone, Castleford, Oldham and – where he won Man of Steel in 1982 – Carlisle, representing Yorkshire, too.

He carved out a reputation as a ball-handling No 13 when Peter Fox took him under his wing at Wakefield – “I was a grafting, running loose forward but he said we needed a ball-handler, that we’d not got one and I was the best he’d get” – and it was brother Neil Fox, one of the sport’s greatest ever players, who eventually led him to hooker.

Morgan explained: “When Foxy’s legs started going he wanted to go to loose forward, but they couldn’t drop me so he conned me into playing at nine.

“In fact, my first game there was Darn Lane at Cas against Dennis Hartley and Jonny Ward – I wondered what was going on.”

He joined Castleford in February, 1986 to start their lottery, something he still runs now, and, by May, they had won the Challenge Cup at Wembley.

Morgan was assistant to Australian Darryl Van de Velde when Castleford returned to Wembley in 1992 with – on the subject of Kiwis – Tawera Nikau, Tony Kemp and Richie Blackmore (“what a trio that was”) in their ranks around that time.

However, when captain John Joyner announced he was hanging up his boots and wanted to work on the coaching staff, Morgan, already busy with the commercial aspect of the business, stood aside.

But not before one further question was asked: do you fancy another added role – commentating on the club match videos?