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Tuesday
Jan242012

Rebel Stirling Mortlock with a cause

Stirling Mortlock will play out his Super 15 career with new club Melbourne Rebels. Source: Herald Sun PRIZED Rebels recruit Stirling Mortlock has signed on to play out his Super 15 career in Melbourne. Russell Gould asks the former Wallabies captain why he chose to head down south. RUSSELL GOULD: What was the most significant factor in deciding to move to Melbourne? STIRLING MORTLOCK: Coach Rod Macqueen was a significant factor. He recruited me to the Brumbies and was my first Wallabies coach. As a person and a coach he has been extremely innovative. He made it clear that this was going to be something special and that was driving him. So that was exciting. Likewise, there was the opportunity to finish my career in Australia and tie in with post-career, possibly pursue coaching, and I have also a young family so it would have been a big call to uproot them and take them overseas.

This was also perfect timing with a World Cup campaign coming up next year and hopefully pushing towards that. It all added up. When did Rod first raise the idea with you? It was a fair while ago, probably before he was officially the coach. At those initial stages it was just chatting about things and it progressed from there. It's a situation I never thought I would be in. I pride myself on being an extremely loyal person. People show faith in me and I like to return the favour. That shows from me playing for Gordon juniors - they have been my club forever - then the Brumbies gave me my first opp in 1998 and I stayed there for 13 years. I never thought I would play for another organisation. Was it hard to leave the Brumbies, where you played your entire super rugby career? They had been keen for me to play on next year, but the reality is they were never going to offer me another two- or three-year deal. That's why for me the timing was perfect to come to Melbourne. It's the best thing for me staying in Australian rugby, too, and hopefully it could start to be the norm for players to finish here, then go in to business or coaching or whatever, as opposed to going overseas and doing a superannuation dash for cash. And this is more beneficial long-term? Certainly from my perspective this is a long-term opportunity to be a part of a new franchise, hopefully to be an integral part of that over the next two to three years knowing full well I am winding down my rugby career and amping up my post-football career. It's exciting for me to have made that firm decision, and the next port of call is to start looking for places to live and embrace the next chapter of our lives. You post-career plans have begun also then? For the last few years I have been trying to focus on a post-rugby career and have been studying applied finance. For the past two years I have been associated with Citi Group, doing an internship-style program there, which has been fantastic for me, getting some work experience. But you are here to play rugby first and foremost? I haven't thought about the balance. Everything is still fresh and new. That's the exciting thing - we start from scratch. I feel with next year being a World Cup year I want to play some fantastic football to try and be involved in that. And then I feel as though I will definitely be able to give another year, and then hopefully the following year after that. From the get-go there has been an understanding with Rod we would talk about that when it gets closer. The reality is I am keen, very excited about having a mentoring role and being part a new club's culture and its heart. Now you're a Rebel do you try to convince others to come? That's the idea of having a big name, such as you, joining the club. My job isn't to be a salesman. We have spoken about the guys who are on board and opening up a dialogue, having some communication on how we want to do things, all the way down to our playing style and our culture and the things we value. But from my perspective I am looking to get back to the Brumbies and focus on the back half of our season. But Rod might ask you about players given you are at the coalface, and see them up close every week? The beauty of having guys who have signed is you can start brainstorming on what we are doing and getting a feel for different potential recruits. But the reality is Rod is driving that. Certainly our input is something he would be happy to have. Culture, and a strong culture, is high on Rod's agenda for the Rebels. Does that appeal to you? Everything that Rod was saying made clear sense. I truly believed it as well. It is about that connection with the community and giving everyone the sense they belong. Part of that would be family as well. I'm bringing my wife and three kids and all the other players will have partners and family and that will be a huge part of this club, and maybe the partners could have some input. Having that sense of family in a club is a unique thing and something we would want in our culture. What about being the face of the club? No dramas at all. In the last few years I have taken a bit of a backward step towards a lot of those things. But with the guys who are coming on board there is a going to be a great mix of seasoned campaigners with young guys wanting to try something new and fresh. The reality is when you get that mix right, and the best people in and for the right reasons, it is a lot easier to do special things. Do you want to be captain? I've had no thoughts at all about that, which has been the beauty of this. Rod has been open and upfront that there will be a lot of people contributing to what we do and that's what it is all about. I have no qualms whether I am going to be captain or not. What about your body? Will it last three years? So far this season my body hasn't been ideal. The reality is every year at the start of the Super 14 you try to push your body as hard as you can so towards the back end you start peaking, and for the Wallabies. I have been pushing myself extremely hard in the gym and on the pitch and probably gone a little bit too hard. But I want to get rid of a few niggles and ramp up my fitness. Are you in Wallabies calculations? What has Robbie Deans said? I spoke to Robbie last year about his plans for the team moving forward and I know that next year he'll have a plan in place and perhaps my role within the Wallabies team could be more a mentor-style role. I haven't spoken to him since but I will. The reality is I have to get out there and play well and make that decision easier for him. That could be to the Rebels' benefit in their first year ahead of the World Cup? One thing I try to pride myself on is giving my all every time I take the pitch, whether it is game one or the last game or close to Wallabies selection. I want to be consistent. Having said that the inaugural season for the Rebels will be an important one and everyone wants to be pushing to do something special. Can they be competitive straight away? It will be a challenge. The Super 14 is a very difficult tournament. All the teams are quite close in their talent and ability and throw in the significant amount of travel and it's a team's ability to have depth to cope with everything, maintain your form and then peak at the right time. As a former Wallabies captain there will be high expectations on you to perform. Is that fair? I'm more than happy to deal with that. I am really happy with where I am at in my rugby life and coming to a new team could give me a little bit of a burst, a new lease on life. But can you deliver? I think everyone (at the Rebels) hopes that I can, and so do I.