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Manly’s Morgan Harper Finds His Groove After Cronulla Horror Show

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Morgan Harper (center) celebrates with his Manly teammates.  Image: Jono Searle/Getty Images
Morgan Harper (center) celebrates with his Manly teammates. Image: Jono Searle/Getty Images

Morgan Harper digested it on social media, was dropped to reserve and struggled mentally for a few days after receiving a defensive lesson from Siosifa Talakai and addicted to the quiet one night he said he was “damned awful”.

But the Sea Eagles center has put that game behind them and is back at its best for Sunday’s showdown with the Wests Tigers.

Talakai has put in some epic performances this season, but none have been as devastating as Thursday night in the Shire when he ran 193 meters, scored two tries and set up two more in the first half against Manly.

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Harper was on the receiving end on round 7 that night, unable to do anything to stop Talakai, who stormed into the Origin fight after that match.

Coach Des Hasler replaced Harper at halftime and he replaced it on social media from people unaware that he had lost 6kg and spent three days in bed after contracting Covid a week earlier.

“I’m not going to lie, I was terrible that night,” Harper said in his first interview since the Cronulla match.

“I could use the Covid excuse because I came back on Monday… but at the end of the day I didn’t perform.

Siosifa Talakai had a field day against Manly.  Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Siosifa Talakai had a field day against Manly. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

“I don’t really care what people say or anything, it’s more what I know in myself, and I know that wasn’t how I play.”

Harper was dropped to reserve rank where he played one game before being pushed back into the NRL team to replace the injured Brad Parker.

“Dessie was good at it,” he said.

“He understood, and I also understood that I had to go back and work on a few things and get a little bigger before I got back into this team. It was about getting myself back in the frame for a chance.

“The last month and a little bit has been about getting back and size up because I’ve lost a bit of weight. I’ve worked hard in the gym and trained hard to get my body back in shape, so I’ll keep doing that and hopefully the rest will come naturally.”

Harper had no problems recovering physically, but the mental side took a little longer.

“It was quite difficult, to be honest, the first few days. I was not elected the following week, but that was understandable,” he said.

“It’s not about what happens, but how you react. I’m just glad the guys here definitely had my back and that helped me get through it, along with my wife back home.

“You have to turn it around yourself. Anyone can try to do things for you, but it’s up to you and how you want to react to things. That’s the approach I’ve taken.

“I give Johnny Novak (the Sea Eagles mentality coach) a lot of credit. He helped me with the mental side of things and got me ready and prepared. He was a great support to me.”

Morgan Harper has bounced back.  Photo: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images
Morgan Harper has bounced back. Photo: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Perhaps the biggest change for Harper is his move to center left. The move clearly worked as he had his best game of the season in Manly’s huge win over the Warriors before the start of the State of Origin series.

The 23-year-old made a scything run to set up Reuben Garrick for a try, but his tackle on Jack Murchie a little earlier proved to himself and everyone watching that he was back at his defensive best.

“I went to catch it for a start, but then the light got in the way. I’ve never had that before where it’s centered in the light. I couldn’t see anything,” he said, referring to the rescue attempt he made on the Warriors attacker earlier that night.

“All I could see was him looking up to catch him, so I just did my best and tried to get the ball in as soon as it landed and I got my legs under him. I knew I was holding it up because the ball was always under my arm Once I wrapped it around my leg I knew it couldn’t get it down then It was great.

“It doesn’t matter what the score is – we’re proud of our ‘D’ who hasn’t been the best in recent weeks. It doesn’t matter if you’re up or down, you’re defending the line with your life.”

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