Daniel Mortimer says he is enjoying coming off the bench and "going berserk" for 20 or 30 minutes for the Roosters every week.
There had some been uncertainty around Mortimer’s career for a couple of years, and although he would like to be getting more game-time he is appreciating having been identified for a consistent role under coach Trent Robinson.
Mortimer is the team’s back-up hooker to Jake Friend, and he describes the role Robinson has assigned to him this way: "I go on and try and spark the team with a bit of enthusiasm. I’ve got to make sure I go berserk while I’m out there.
"I’ve got the freedom to run out of dummy-half and try to make something happen when I come on, which is usually late in the first half. I know the team structures very well, and within that I’m able to play what I see in front of me.
"I can put a bit of myself into the team game, and I’m really enjoying that. The coach has been pretty happy with me. The defence in the middle of the park can be hard, but I’m handling that aspect of it pretty well."
Mortimer emerged as a golden boy at Parramatta in 2009, when he made his first-grade debut as a 19-year-old. When he was coming off contract, Canterbury, the club where his father and uncles played, bid heavily for his services.
He chose to stay at the Eels, but his career took a downturn. He was shuffled from position to position and his game suffered. There didn’t appear to be much future for him at the club, and when the Roosters expressed an interest in him Parramatta released him at the end of the 2011 season.
Mortimer continued to struggle to re-establish himself last season, when he played just eight first-grade games, but like always his attitude remained excellent and he captained Newtown to win the NSW Cup grand final.
Robinson, who replaced Brian Smith as Roosters coach at the end of last season, has used Mortimer off the bench in every Roosters game this season, and will do so again when they take on Penrith at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
Mortimer played for just 14 minutes in his first game, against South Sydney, and ran for 12 metres and made 12 tackles. He got 25 minutes the following week against the Warriors and ran for 11 metres and made eight tackles.
In Round 3, against the Broncos, Mortimer played for 20 minutes and ran for nine metres and made 17 tackles.
Since then, Mortimer, with his confidence growing, has been able to express himself more in games. Against Parramatta he was on the field for 25 minutes and ran for 36 metres and made 12 tackles. Mortimer also made one line-break and scored a try in that game.
Against the Raiders, Mortimer had 22 minutes and ran for 10 metres and made 16 tackles, and when the Roosters thrashed the Bulldogs 38-0 the following week he came up with his best figures all season – 29 minutes, 73 metres, a line-break and a try.
Mortimer faced a challenge from the start of his first-grade career because he wasn’t very big, and opposition teams immediately started running their big men at him to try to exploit any weakness he may have had in defence.
He has always faced the challenge bravely, but did, at times, find it difficult. This season, he is defending better than ever.
"I put on a couple of kilos during the off-season," Mortimer said proudly. "I’m playing at 83 kilograms now. I could easily put on a few more, but I don’t know if that would be the best thing for the other side of my game.
"Mobility and speed off the mark are two strengths of my game, and I don’t want to lose any of that. I’m pretty happy with how I’m handling things at the weight I’m at now. I’d obviously like to on the field for longer, but I’m satisfied that I’m stepping up to the mark each week."
Mortimer said Robinson was having a great effect on the Roosters.
"Trent is a terrific coach in a lot of ways," he said. "The structures he has us using are great, but he’s also big on attitude and values. He wants the players to be well aware of the proud history of the club. Everyone here has bought into the way he wants to do things."