Written by Callum Walker
One of the household names of Super League, Adrian Morley seemed to have been around forever. A barnstorming prop forward, Morley debuted for Leeds Rhinos in 1995 aged 17. He won his first piece of silverware in 1999 as the Rhinos defeated London in the Challenge Cup Final.
The forward was one of a very select few to have been given the chance to go to the NRL and, at the age of 23, that’s exactly what he did, signing for Sydney Roosters where former Leeds boss Graham Murray was head coach. Morley had scored 35 tries in 149 games for Leeds over a period of six seasons.
Morley took to the NRL like a duck to water, taking his ferocious and aggressive style of play to the heart of the Australian game. The forward was instrumental in the Roosters’ 2002 NRL Grand Final triumph, and then their 2003 World Club Challenge victory over Super League champions St Helens.
The Salford-born enforcer became an extremely key figure for the Sydney club and would go on to play in two more Grand Finals in 2003 and 2004. In fact, Morley is one of only eight English players to have played in an NRL Grand Final winning side, and, is the only player to have earned Great Britain caps whilst at the Roosters.
In seven seasons Down Under, the forward made 114 appearances for the Roosters, scoring eight tries, firmly establishing a reputation as one of the most formidable English forwards to grace the Australian league.
In 2005, Morley became the first Englishman to have won Premierships in the NRL and Super League as well as the Challenge Cup. In late 2005, although still contracted to Sydney, he joined Bradford Bulls towards the end of the season on-loan and helped them to claim the Super League title against his old team Leeds.
His stay at Bradford lasted just six games and, after another year at Sydney, at the end of 2006, Morley returned to England for good, having being snapped up by Warrington Wolves.
Morley stayed at Warrington for the largest part of his career – seven seasons – and in that time won three Challenge Cups (2009, 2010 and 2012), captaining the side for all three successes. He left Warrington at the end of 2013, having played 173 games and scoring nine tries. Unfortunately, the forward left the Halliwell Jones without winning the Grand Final, despite appearing in both the 2012 and 2013 showpiece event.
Salford – his hometown club – became Morley’s next destination. Then 36, the forward was appointed captain of the newly-rebranded Salford Red Devils. He spent two seasons with Salford before retiring at the end of 2015 at the age of 38, after making 45 appearances and scoring twice.
Given his stellar form for Leeds, Sydney and Warrington, Morley was an ever-present in both the Great Britain and England sides through the noughties. He made his Lions debut as a teenager in 1996 and went on to earn 30 caps, scoring three tries. For England, the powerful forward made 23 appearances and scored one try.
Morley did, however, sometimes play the game on the wrong side of the law – he holds the unwanted accolade of the fastest dismissal in Test match history. In the 2003 Ashes Test against Australia, the forward was sent off after just 12 seconds of the opening match for a high tackle on Robbie Kearns.
A feared prop forward, just the sight of Adrian Morley was enough to strike fear into the hearts of opponents. Standing at 6 ft 3 and weighing 105kg, he was a man mountain. His robust running caused defences all sorts of problems whilst his bone-crunching defence was enough to leave fans wincing.