Morton departs QRL after tenure of sustained growth

Like many kids growing up in country NSW, Troy Morton wanted to play rugby league for the Blues.

He attended school at Trinity College Lismore and represented NSW Combined Colleges in 1988, playing in the forwards.

"I always wanted to be a rugby league player, I played for NSW schoolboys and all that stuff," he said after calling full-time on 21 years working for the Queensland Rugby League in a number of key roles.

"I had some trials with a few clubs but never really kicked on, maybe because I wasn't a big fan of training to be honest."

Morton's father Danny was a handy footballer and represented NSW Country in 1974 in the days of the City-Country clashes.

He would hire a minibus and make the five-hour round-trip from Lismore to Lang Park with the town's local junior rugby league team who would sit on the old hill and watch Origin games, cheering for the Blues.

Morton could never have imagined that some years later, he would return to the iconic stadium, since re-named Suncorp Stadium, and play a major role behind the scenes with helping develop and grow the game throughout Queensland.

He refuses to take one ounce of credit for the success of Queensland's champion Origin side, insisting his contributions were mostly "off-field stuff" aimed more at grassroots level.

But when the 48-year-old walked out through the sliding doors of the QRL's impressive new Milton headquarters in Castlemaine Street completing his long tenure, he did so satisfied and pleased with some of the programs and initiatives he'd helped implement.

Morton also played his part as commercial manager in helping to secure sponsorships which drive Queensland's pride and joy on the field through deals worth a head-turning $32 million, and the promise of more to come in the next few years.

When Morton graduated from high school he planned on being a school teacher until he discovered a new course at Lismore University – a Business Degree in Tourism.

"I gave that a go but I couldn't see myself working in hospitality and tourism my whole life so I went to back to Uni again and did an MBA in Sport and Marketing.

Morton broke into rugby league as the first CEO of Brothers League's club during the inaugural year of the now Intrust Super Cup before applying for the job as a Division Manager with the QRL.

He spent the next 10 years looking after the Southern Division (Gold Coast and Ipswich) developing a number of new junior clubs including Canungra, Robina, Jimboomba and Springfield, most of them which are still going strong with senior teams.

"We'd get grants from the QRL to build a lot of new clubs from scratch. We had a process, we'd appoint a committee and then use former players to attract young kids to play," he said.

Morton also co-launched the QRL's Administration Conference which rewards volunteers and others for the work they do and time they give to rugby league.

"I started that more than 15 years ago with the help of current QRL Chairman Peter Betros and it has been a big success.

"Initially it was just for the Division managers and staff but it grew into a reward for the volunteers and a way to help educate them at the same time.

With Government grants and QRL funding, we provide free accommodation to the conference which attracts over 500 people, mostly club volunteers throughout the state.

"We had NSW people and people from others sports attending it so it must have been successful."

Along the way, Morton helped set up the ARL Masters while in his early years he conducted a number of studies and presented papers on "Suicide and Depressive Disorders" and the impact the introduction of an Under-20s competition would have in Queensland.

Ironically, his findings suggested such a competition would lower the age of rejection on young players.

"We were basically be going to be telling these kids that by the age of 21, they were either good enough or they weren't basically," said Morton.

"I was a good recruitment tool and kept kids in our game who may have drifted off to other sports.

"But it some ways it also put a line in the sand and said to them if you haven't made it by now, you are no chance."

Morton said the pathways for young players had opened up again with the Intrust Super Cup with more and more talented young players taking the next step into the NRL.

But perhaps the most satisfying and rewarding achievement for Morton was his successful push for the QRL to run its own Digital Department.

"I pushed it and made it happen," he said, clearly proud of its rapid growth with fans.

"When we took back control of the Queensland Maroons Facebook page off the NRL, we had 61,000 followers.

"Now we have over 1.3 million followers across a growing number of social media accounts.

"The digital department has grown quickly and is now the main communication channel for the game.

"It's been huge because the game has to be connected to the people and that is the medium people use these days."