A beacon of hope during a dark hour?

Injury crisis hits Parramatta

At a club battered by injury and out of form, Daniel Mortimer stands as a beacon of hope for the tortured blue-and-gold army.

Mortimer was yesterday named on an extended 5-man Parramatta bench for Friday night’s clash with South Sydney at ANZ Stadium as the Eels desperately search for a playmaker following the departure of Brett Finch and injuries to Kris Keating and Feleti Mateo.

Although the 20-year-old is rated an outside chance of taking the field this weekend, his mere presence in the squad gives long-suffering Eels fans hope in a season verging on free-fall.

“Daniel Anderson spoke to me [on Tuesday morning] and said I probably won’t play this week – although I could get a call-up on Friday – but he told me to definitely prepare myself for the weeks ahead,” the son of Bulldogs great Peter told NRL.com.

“At the start of the season my goal was to play first grade this year and I wasn’t sure how realistic it would be but I’m in a pretty good position now.

“It’s pretty exciting to be in the mix.”

Parramatta fans have long seen Mortimer as a potential long-term halfback for a club that has never quite recovered from the retirement of legendary No.7 Peter Sterling although an NRL debut this season remains in some doubt.

NRL.com revealed last week that the Eels’ 2010 salary cap situation is such that Finch’s sudden departure last month was seen a godsend and reports this week suggested both Mortimer and fellow aspirant Albert Kelly may have to wait until next year to be called into first grade for the same reason.

“All I can do is keep training hard and hope for the call-up,” Mortimer admitted.

“I started the last part of the pre-season – from Christmas onwards – training full-time with the first grade squad up until I started University in February and I’m still doing two or sometimes three days a week.

“Hopefully that puts me in good stead.”

One thing that is apparent is that Mortimer boasts an old head on young shoulders.

For one, he supports coach Anderson’s decision to hold him back earlier in the season when many were calling for his immediate promotion.

“Part of me is glad that I didn’t get thrown in there right after Finchy left because there was a lot of pressure on Jeff Robson,” Mortimer said.

“He did a good job I think and is a bit more experienced.”

Secondly, he recognised the pressures that come not only with wearing the Parramatta no.7 jersey but also with a name synonymous with one of the great dynasties of rugby league – and is unfazed.

“There is always talk about the Parramatta halfback – how they haven’t had one since ‘Sterlo’ – and especially being a Mortimer there is expectation there, but I can’t do anything about that.

“I can only play my best and hopefully my best is good enough.”

And he remains confident that his opportunity will come sooner rather than later – a fact evidenced above all else by his decision to sign a new deal with the club earlier this year.

The immediate future may seem unclear for the Eels right now, but either way Daniel Mortimer sees himself playing a role.

“The coach spoke to me and said he wants to keep me around and develop me as a footballer,” he said.

“I suppose it’s always good news when the coach wants you to stay.

“The opportunity was there for me and with the halves out at the moment I think there will definitely be an opportunity for me in the coming weeks.

“Even though our Toyota Cup side isn’t going great I’ve been pretty happy with my form.

“I’m becoming more consistent as a half, I think.”