DANIEL Mortimer has experienced a lot in his short rugby league career.
He debuted in Round 12, 2009 for Parramatta and by October that year he was running out for the team as the Eels’ Grand Final five-eighth. The following year Parramatta slumped to finish in 12th spot and Mortimer played the last game of the season off the bench. During 2011 and 2012 he played just nine and eight NRL games respectively, playing most of his football in NSW Cup for Wentworthville and then Sydney Roosters feeder team Newtown, with whom he hoisted the premiership trophy last year.
It’s a lot of highs, lows and then some highs again for someone who turns 24 in June and is entering just his fifth season as an NRL player. Speak to him or ask anyone about him and you have an idea of why Roosters coach Trent Robinson wanted him to stay at the club and how he’s managed to work his way back to a utility bench spot at the Roosters.
“The best way to explain ‘Morts’ is he’s competitive. He’ll turn up where a lot of people don’t see where he turns up. He’s been known for that over his career. He’ll support that player or he’ll get third man in,” Robinson explains. “He allows Jake [Friend, Roosters hooker] to roll in two stints which is really nice for Jake as well fatigue-wise, ’cause obviously he makes a lot of tackles.
“But Morts is composed. I think if you look at his stats over the last three games I think his for-and-against is really high. It was true last year and it’s been true over his career. It’s something that people don’t recognise.”
Competitive. It’s the word that comes up most often when discussing Mortimer (pictured) and is probably the key attribute that helped him lead the Jets from seventh spot on the ladder at the end of the regular season to the NSW Cup grand final podium as champions in 2012.
Newtown coach Greg Matterson wasn’t surprised by how Mortimer took on his captain and five-eighth role for the Roosters’ reserve grade side. He had received word from his Wentworthville counterpart, Brett Cook, that if Mortimer was to feature in his team he was receiving a prize player.
“When he comes back he gives everything and his attitude’s good. He’s a real good kid,” Matterson says. “He’s just got a great attitude; he’s got a great will to win. He’s a competitor, he wants to compete. That’d be his greatest asset.
“He’s got a good bag of skills that he’s progressively getting better at but just his competitiveness... He’s just a tenacious hard worker. His will to win is his strength.”
It’s paying dividends. The arrival of Robinson at the Roosters has opened the way for Mortimer to start playing more top grade football. Having trained at fullback and played the majority of his career in the halves, he’s also now enjoying some time in a dummy-half role, making him an ideal utility for the Roosters bench.
The new coach told Mortimer he wanted him to stay and despite having interest from other clubs at the end of last year, he’s decided to honour the final year of his current contract with the Roosters.
“I had a little bit of interest around the place, other clubs, late last year, the start of this pre-season,” Mortimer tells Big League. “So I approached ‘Robbo’ and he actually said from day one, ‘No, I’m fulfilling my contract here’ and he likes the way I play and he wants me here. So that was a big confidence booster.
“There was a very good chance that I could have been playing somewhere else. There were some opportunities elsewhere but the main thing was that I felt wanted by the coach and I was more than happy to stay here. I’ve developed a good relationship with a lot of the boys and that’s why I’m here. So it’s not a downfall that I’m here at all.
“This year I’m playing for a contract. It’s a big year for me.”
And he has no regrets as to the up-and-down ride he’s had in his career so far.
“I’ve gone through it early and I’ve learnt a lot about myself and other people and about everything,” Mortimer says. “I’ve enjoyed it and in saying that, last year with Jets, playing there, I really enjoyed that as well. So everything that’s happened I’ve got something out of it. You’ve just got to take it as it comes and make the best out of these situations.”