Roberts now has next Friday’s clash against Newcastle followed by Penrith to prove he is worthy of the NSW No. 4 jersey he lost to Morris.
Should NSW beat Queensland next Wednesday at Suncorp Stadium, it would be hard to imagine Fittler making any changes for reasons other than injury or suspension.
Manly’s Tom Trbojevic will return next weekend from a hamstring injury and looms as another option in the outside backs.
“If he’s in good enough form and Freddy wants to go with him, I’m a realist,” Morris said of a Roberts’ recall.
“I’m happy to get out here and do what job Freddy needs me to do. I’ll take it game by game.
“I’m happy Jimmy got his future sorted and hopefully we see him on the field playing his best again. I enjoy watching him play. He will make Souths stronger than they already are.
“It’s wonderful to be back in here. I’m enjoying the week, it could be my last game, and whether I play one, two or three games, I’ll treat it as if it’s my last. I’ll enjoy this for what it is and help the boys when I can.”
After Roberts’ Brisbane snub, Jack Bird’s ACL injury and Joey Leilua’s neck surgery, Fittler badly needed a right centre. Morris said on the Saturday morning of Magic Round he would end his representative retirement in place since the end of 2017.
By lunchtime the Herald had contacted Fittler who was shocked but excited.
“I remember ‘Brandy’ [Greg Alexander] and I watched him score a couple of tries at Shark Park and saying to ourselves, ‘geez he’s going good, it would be nice to have him’,” Fittler said on Thursday.
“It wasn’t until your phone call that triggered it all. You can claim it.
“I spoke to him and we came to an agreement that there would be no guarantees, but his experience would work, his attack was good, but to just concentrate on Cronulla.
“There’s a calmness, and that’s the key, especially with a group where there have been 16 first-time players in the past two years.”
Morris said of his first conversation with Fittler: “I was at my in-laws, I had missed a call and didn’t know who it was. The message said, ‘It’s Freddy, give me a call’.
“I called him but he was getting a haircut, he brushed me and then called me back.
“He asked if I was available, I said, ‘if someone puts his hand up in the next two weeks, and you’ve got no choice but to pick them, then do it, I’m happy to see you give a debut jumper to someone else, but if you need me to come out and do a job for you, I’ll do it’. It’s hard to say no to Brad.”
This time Morris will face a Queensland team without Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, Greg Inglis – whom he famously tackled on one leg in game one of the 2014 series – and Cooper Cronk, but knows they will be just as tough.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.