Mortlock: A New Chapter

Stirling Mortlock

Stirling Mortlock: Courtesy sportydesktops.com

Famously known for intercepting a Carlos Spencer cut out pass and a 100m length-of-the-field try during the 2003 RWC semi final, Stirling Mortlock is a Wallaby legend and Bledisloe Cup hero.

Yesterday, he spoke to a gaggle of media, including the Rebel Army’s Paul Roberton about the journey back from injury, his impressions of the team and the year ahead.

An imposing 6’3’, 105kg, he’s been dubbed ‘the human highlight reel’ for some of the memorial moments; two of which include a massive hit on Tony Woodcock and that 10th minute intercept against the All Blacks.

When he’s fully fit, he’s a powerful unit and smooth runner. His recovery is good news for all Australian rugby fans.

The key words, however, are ‘fully fit’. He was sidelined with a knee injury sustained against the Springboks in Capetown in August of 2009. Back problems plagued him for much of the 2009-10 season. The spinal injury was significant enough that he couldn’t even participate in the post season festivities. “There were a number of areas where the disc was prolapsed so it was pushing against the nerve. Essentially the right side wasn’t doing what I was asking it to do.”

He underwent surgery to correct the problem in May 2010.

Many commented on the image of Mortlock modelling the Rebels jersey in the Herald Sun late last year. He looked lean and light, barely filling the jersey; a shade of a man who earlier in his career rattled the cages of many of the world’s biggest players.

“It’s been a tough road back. I lost a significant amount of weight, and with that, a lot of power and strength. Where I’m at now I’m happy- I’m very happy, but I’ve a little way to go to be comfortable.

“I feel as though my body’s got a little way to go. I’m very confident in the back in particular. I’ve done a huge amount of work on rehab and what not, and getting it as strong as possible.

“It’s more of a body awareness issue. Arguably when I was playing prior to the operation I wasn’t at full capacity. With so much time out of the game, he still senses it will take a while to fine tune himself and accrue some match fitness.

“It’s been a long time between drinks. It’s taking a while for my body to be back to where I want it to be… I am a bit rusty. That’s why it’s been good to be training for a consistent period of time with the team. The opportunity to have an extra few weeks training has helped my body personally.

“[I’ve tried] to improve and work harder in running different options of my game, working in a team environment… Hopefully when I’m in tip-top shape it will be significantly better than I’ve been for a number of years.”

The consummate professional and team player Mortlock has been consigned to the touchline thus far.

“It’s tough watching, that’s always the case as a player. You want to be out there playing rugby. To watch the guys play quite well in the first matches has been really positive, and gives me the drive to get out there.

“I think the team probably gelled a little bit quicker than what I was expecting. Currently there’s a lot of competition for positions that is without a doubt a very, very good thing to have.

“I think we’ve seen good quality in patches.

“At times our defence was tested and the guys responded really well. There are some pleasing signs but as a group we know we have a lot [of improvement] left in us to make over these next two trials looking ahead to the Waratahs.”

Some, including Rod Macqueen, give the former Wallaby skipper an outside chance of making the World Cup squad later this year. The man himself though, sees that as too far away to contemplate, but conceded it was an aim. On the topic all he said was “its a long way off, with this injury and rehab I’ve had to undertake, I’m not really concerned.” He expects to ease himself back into full contact rugby with a 40 minute hit-out against Tonga on Saturday.

Famously known for intercepting a Carlos Spencer cut out pass and a 100m length-of-the-field try during the 2003 RWC semi final, Stirling Mortlock is a Wallaby legend and Bledisloe Cup hero.

 

Paul Roberton

 

Paul Roberton is the Melbourne Correspondent for SARugby.com and journalist for the Rebel Army, the Rebels supporters group.


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