Gerrard says sayonara to Rebels
Departing veteran back Mark Gerrard hasn’t ruled out returning to the Melbourne Rebels although he believes his rugby days will probably end in Japan.
The 29-year-old former Wallaby left the limelight for his retiring skipper Stirling Mortlock and revealed after their 32-17 loss to the Reds he’d played his last Super Rugby game at Melbourne’s AAMI Park after signing a deal to play in Japan.
“I’m just happy to drift off into the wilderness. I didn’t want to make a fuss,” Gerrard said of keeping his departure under wraps.
“It’s sad to go but, at the stage I’m at in my career, it was just too good an offer to refuse.”
Gerrard, who played 24 Tests for Australia, will head overseas late in July for around six months, only required to play seven games with his second-division side Toyota Shokki.
“I’m going to take it easy and enjoy the culture and do a bit of snow-boarding and surfing in the breaks.”
After starting his career in NSW in 2001 and then at the Brumbies, he moved to Japan for two years in 2009 before re-igniting his Australian career in Melbourne.
He said if he decided to play Super Rugby again, he hoped it would be with the Rebels.
“I couldn’t play anywhere else. It wouldn’t be right – I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.”
In his two seasons, Gerrard was one of their most-talented, consistent and versatile performers as he passed a milestone ton of Super Rugby caps.
Gerrard plans to play one match of their upcoming two in South Africa to finish the season and then return for the birth of his son – bringing his tally to two girls and two boys – in Sydney where his family are building a new home.
“He’s been one of our best players,” said Melbourne coach Damien Hill.
“We’ll miss him … he’s been a leader, he’s covered fullback, wing and outside centre for us and he’s got one of the best kicking games in the whole competition.”
The Rebels would have liked to have kept Gerrard but Hill said they couldn’t compete with the money on offer in Japan.
“We fully respect his decision – we’re lucky to have had him for the time we have.”
The Rebels leave on Sunday for games against the Lions in Johannesburg and then the powerful Stormers in Cape Town.
Star back James O’Connor is out after re-injuring his hamstring however Mortlock, who has been battling a calf problem, is a certainty to travel.
Lloyd Johansson will come into the squad for O’Connor.
Hill said it would be a tough tour.
“We haven’t won a game in South Africa,” he said.
“If we put the same effort in (as against the Reds), we’re going to be on the wrong end of the scoreboard.”© AAP 2013