Leeds Rhinos Nostalgia: Big-hitting Adrian Morley had a career to remember

ADRIAN MORLEY, who celebrates his 44th birthday today, was one of Leeds Rhinos’ big hitters in the early years of Super League, in more ways than one.

By Peter Smith
Monday, 10th May 2021, 6:00 am
Adrian Morley fends off Andy Patmore of Oldham in 1996. Picture: Steve Riding.
Adrian Morley fends off Andy Patmore of Oldham in 1996. Picture: Steve Riding.

Though he spent a relatively short time at Leeds, Morley featured for and against the club in Challenge Cup finals, was on the opposition side in two Super League title deciders and made a memorable cameo appearance for Rhinos at the very end of his playing career.

Having hung up his boots, he also returned to his old home for a season as Leeds’ academy boss.

At his peak, during a spell playing in Australia, Morley was one of the world’s best forwards.

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Referee Stuart Cummings shows the red card to Adrian Morley at Warrington

He used his size and power to outstanding effect, with a defence-scattering running game and ferocious tackling, but was equally famous for the occasions he over-stepped the mark.

His most notorious on-field incident was a sending off just 12 seconds into a 2003 Ashes Test against the Kangaroos, for a high tackle on Robbie Kearns.

He had been sin-binned just five minutes into his GB debut, against New Zealand, seven years earlier.

Morley was red-carded twice for Leeds in 1996, away to Bradford Bulls and then again, in the second game following a ban, at Warrington Wolves.

Adrian Morley in action for Great Britain against Australia in 2003. Picture: Steve Riding.

Other infamous dismissals included one in a game at Sheffield Eagles, which Rhinos won with 12 men having been 19 points behind and just two minutes into a home clash with St Helens.

Born in Salford, Morley made his debut as a teenage substitute in a 44-19 win over Hull at Headingley on April 14, 1995, 11 months after joining Leeds’ youth system from the Eccles community club.

He played for both England and Great Britain the following year and by the end of the decade was one of the hottest properties in Super League.

After the 2000 season he followed his former Rhinos coach Graham Murray to Sydney Roosters, where the partnership between Moz and Muzza set the NRL alight.

Warrington's Adrian Morley (left) and Lee Briers celebrate lifting the Carnegie Challenge Cup in 2009. Picture: Gareth Copley/PA Wire.

He won the Aussie Grand Final in 2003 and the Super League title decider two years later, for Bradford against Rhinos.

That was a painful night for Morley’s close mate and former pack partner Barrie McDermott, whose last game for Rhinos ended in defeat.

Morley had joined Bulls on a short-term deal at the end of the Australian season, but returned to Super League permanently with Warrington Wolves 12 months later.

He spent seven seasons at Warrington before finishing his career with home city club Salford in 2014 and 2015.

Adrian Morley watches on as Leeds Rhinos Academy coach in 2017. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

He played in Leeds’ 2000 Cup final defeat by Bradford, but won the trophy three times with Wolves, twice when Leeds were the opposition.

Rhinos gained a measure of revenge in 2012 when they shocked Warrington at Old Trafford, less than two months after the Wembley loss.

Morley was a Grand Final runner-up again against Wigan Warriors in 2013.

The second-rower-turned-prop retired at the end of 2015, but had a swan song in front of a full house at Headingley as a guest player when treble-winners Leeds took on the New Zealand tourists, who were preparing for that autumn’s Test series against England.

He spent the 2017 season coaching Rhinos’ academy and said at the end of it: “I will always remain a Rhino and look forward to watching the club develop and grow over the next few years, especially the young players I have had the good fortune to work with throughout this year.”

Having taken a job outside the sport, he returned to Salford earlier this year as a trustee of the club’s foundation.

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