So long Stirling: Mortlock retires
Stirling Mortlock in action. AAP Image/David Crosling
Australian rugby stalwart and former Wallaby skipper Stirling Mortlock will retire from the sport at the end of this year’s Super Rugby season.
And he will be missed. The record-breaking back played 80 tests for the Wallabies and has a trophy cabinet that few fellow Australians can boast.
In his stirling – pardon the pun – career Mortlock won nearly everything on offer. He claimed Bledisloe and Tri-Nations trophies in 2000, his first year playing in the green and gold, and memorably kicked a sideline penalty against the Boks in Durban to secure our very first Tri-Nations crown.
The chrome-domed one didn’t get his hands on the William Webb Ellis trophy but his involvement in 2003 will go down in the annals of the tournament’s history – that intercept off Carlos Spencer that sent the All Blacks out in the semi-final. I was in the stands that day and that crucial moment changed the match and took the massive crowd’s breath away at the same time.
Mortlock played in four Super Rugby finals with the Brumbies, in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004, taking home titles in 2001 and 2004.
He made the move to the Rebels in 2011 as their inaugural captain, a wise choice.
Throughout his career he was a leader from the front, a strong runner who seemed to relish the hard contact and a great defender who never wilted under pressure.
The Rebels could not have picked a better player to be the face of their new club. The past two years have not been kind to the former Gordon junior with injuries keeping him off the field. In Melbourne he wasn’t able to get back to his best. But the leadership and example he will have set behind the scenes as a model professional will undoubtedly have been invaluable for the franchise.
At his peak Mortlock was a cool goal-kicker, a try-scorer and an awesome outside centre and winger. He scored 489 points for the Wallabies, putting him as the third highest all-time scorer, and remains the only Aussie to have racked up more than 1000 points in Super Rugby. In 2002 he was named Super Rugby player of the year.
His collection of records in both Test rugby and Super Rugby is very impressive.
Mortlock, always a passionate and dignified individual, shone in a golden age of Australian rugby. It’s hard to argue with his decision that it’s time to hang up the boys, but Aussie fans will long remember and treasure his impact on the gave they play in heaven on our shores.
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