He played 268 NRL games for St George Illawarra, represented his country 33 times and scored two tries to help the Dragons win the 2010 Grand Final and Jason Nightingale has absolutely no doubt that his good mate Brett Morris, who officially retired from rugby league on Monday, was the greatest winger he ever saw play the game.
Nightingale spoke to ESPN ahead of the news that we have seen the last game of Brett Morris' lauded career. From the earliest memories of playing against the Morris twins as juniors, to forming a lasting friendship which continues to this day, Nightingale speaks of a player so dedicated to his craft, to the point of being obsessive.
"I met Brett and Josh when they played against us in Harold Matthews, they were playing for the Steelers and I was playing for the Dragons. Brett was playing fullback. I still remember that game, we were going alright and then Brett ran around us and went 80 metres to score a try that sealed the win for them. That was my first on field meeting, when we were 16 or 17 years old," Nightingale told ESPN.
"In 2005 we were in the same U20s team, that was a pretty special year, playing together as teenagers in a pretty special team. They were very hard workers [the Morris twins], they used to slice me up at training. They were quite a bit ahead of myself, all of the Steelers development players were ahead of us from the Dragons, both physically and the way they prepared."
Brett was the first of the trio to make his debut for the Dragons, playing on the wing in a 30-12 loss to the Cronulla Sharks in Round 9 of the 2006 season. Brother Josh and Nightingale debuted the following season. Over the years Nightingale was impressed by the work ethic of the Morris brothers.
"The core of their success is how competitive they are and how hard they work. Their passion for excellence," Nightingale said.
That pursuit of excellence took on some unusual forms at times. Brett's famed ability to ground the ball while airborne, was no accident
"Nathan Brown started us at the Police Boys Club, with the backs getting on trampolines and jumping around on the spring boards. It was a really good idea, I loved it. Most of it was around being in the air and training yourself to be better at that. We'd do that in the off season and it was really good reactive stuff," Nightingale said.
At the end of the 2008 season, with Wayne Bennett set to take over at the club, Josh left the Dragons to play with the Bulldogs. It was a tough moment for Brett and for Nightingale, who remembers the super coach having his doubts over the decision to release the twin.
"I still remember at the 2008 World Cup, when Wayne Bennett came up to me and asked 'did I make the right decision in which Morris twin to keep?' and I said the right decision was to keep both of them. I've played with them forever and I know these guys are not going away, it's not as though he's going to leave and not be good elsewhere," Nightingale recalls.
Premiership success soon followed for Brett and Nightingale, as the Bennett coached Dragons won the 2010 Grand Final, trouncing the Roosters 32-8. It was the joint venture club's first ever premiership and the first for the Dragons since 1979.
"We had a great period at the Dragons, that was pretty special for everyone involved at the club, whether you were fans or a player. They were great times with Brett and working with Wayne Bennett as coach."
At the end of the 2015 season, Nightingale found himself a little lost as Brett decided to leave the Dragons to join Josh at the Bulldogs.
"Yeah it was tough, I really loved playing with him, it was awesome. We used to train together, we had the same routine, we would work on the same drills at the end of training. We were good mates as well socially.
"His preparation was so meticulous that I would use him to know where I was up to with my own routine. He used to listen to the same three songs and then I knew how long we had to go, based on the songs. I knew where he was up to in his routine and where I should be up to in my routine. He became my little time clock."
"It was always 'Take on Me', some other song I can't remember and his last song which would come on with about seven minutes to go was 'Pursuit of Happiness'. He had the same three songs from discman to streaming service. I had that for six years. So losing all that when he went to the Bulldogs was sad for me and the club," Nightingale lamented.
Brett went on to play with his brother at the Bulldogs for four years, before taking up an offer to play with the Roosters. He won the premiership with the club in his first year there in 2019.
He officially hangs up the boots after succumbing to an ACL injury sustained in Round 8 of the 2021 season. His career included 278 first grade games, 15 caps for New South Wales and 18 Tests for Australia. According to Nightingale, Brett's greatest skill on field was his ability to elude defenders with subtle changes of direction at full speed.
"His change of direction, not so much in a step sense. It obviously has something to do with the strength through his hips. It's like a swerve, like the way he moves it's a sort of Brett Mullins-like movement," Nightingale said.
"He has a step, but it's more the way he moves at speed in small curves. Being able to do that at speed makes him very hard to line up."
Brett Morris has been mentioned by many as among the greatest to play the game in his position. Something Nightingale has no doubts about.
"He is the greatest winger I have ever seen. I can't comment on the guys who played before him, but I definitely haven't seen anyone better in my time and I've been watching the game for about three decades with an educated opinion," Nightingale said.
"No one goes near him for the whole total package of what you would like in a winger. There is nothing missing - yardage he will find a carry, get involved, get a quick play the ball. He will diffuse every kick, he cover defends and tackles and scrambles in defence and he scores a load of tries."