Mortimer joins titanic rescue mission
The Titans have thrown an NRL career lifeline to Roosters utility Daniel Mortimer in a bid to rescue their own season with the 2013 premiership winner lured to the Gold Coast by the opportunity to play in the halves on a permanent basis.
That opportunity could come as early as Sunday when the Titans host the Dragons at Cbus Super Stadium desperately trying to revive a season that has stalled under the weight of long-term injuries to halves Aidan Sezer and Beau Henry and continued uncertainty surrounding the immediate playing future of Albert Kelly.
The Titans named a provisional team on Tuesday afternoon with Brad Takairangi at five-eighth and Maurice Blair at halfback but coach John Cartwright said that he won't be afraid to throw Mortimer straight into the mix and that his new teammates may be the ones who have to make the greatest adjustment.
"If he does come into the side you've just got to build your game to suit him," said Cartwright as the Titans try to break a five-game losing streak. "Your six and your seven are your generals so we'll have a fullback, a hooker and a half who have pretty much been there from day one training-wise. Having said that, it would be a big ask to come in and do that role but it's been done in the past and we'll train through the week with a few combinations and make a decision later in the week."
In a message to Roosters members on the club's website, Mortimer spoke about the difficulty of the decision to leave the defending premiers after three seasons as well as firing a good natured shot across the bow to his now former club.
"I've had the chance to see the boys in person and the coach today, it was a very sad goodbye, but I just want to say thank you very much for the time I've had here," said Mortimer, who has played 91 NRL games across six seasons and will be at the Titans until at least the end of the 2016 season.
"It's been a great three years, I'll never forget last year for as long as I live, it's something that we'll all have in common. It's been amazing and I look forward to seeing you all in Round 22 back here (Allianz Stadium) hopefully tearing it up for the Titans."
When Scott Prince made his shock departure at the end of the 2012 season to join the Broncos, the Titans went knocking on Mortimer's door. Incoming Roosters coach Trent Robinson convinced him to stay at Bondi but reluctantly let him go on Tuesday for the sake of his career.
“On the very first day I met Daniel when I returned to the club, I asked him to stay, and it speaks volumes of the type of man he is that he did, when he had other opportunities available to him," Robinson said.
“Daniel typifies the type of player we’ve been trying to build our team around, and while it’s sad to see him go, I’m excited to see him pursue a more regular opportunity in the halves.
“Popular among his teammates and a valued contributor both on and off the field, the Roosters are certainly far better for the service Daniel has given our club. It has been an honour to coach him and he’ll always have many friends here at the Roosters."
Those closing words in particular will be music to the ears of Cartwright who concedes that the electrifying Kelly is now a "week to week" proposition as he battles ongoing soreness in his left leg.
"There are concerns there because the break in the leg has actually healed but there's still a lot of pain and he can't put a lot of weight on it," Cartwright said of Kelly's recovery from a fracture in his leg suffered in Round 8.
"As soon as he can put weight on the leg and put full weeks of training in he'll be available for selection again but that's not going to happen this week and it's probably a week to week thing now.
"We actually enquired about [Mortimer] before last season. He was on contract with the Roosters but we knew he was really keen to play in the halves and that coincided with 'Princey' going to the Broncos and we'd signed Albert pretty much on spec.
"The fact that he wanted to play halfback and he had some family ties up here, the club was very attractive to him and probably overnight it became a little bit more important when we lost Beau Henry, who'll be out for a period of time as well.
"The process has been a fairly long one but losing Aidan for 12 weeks sped the process up a bit and then overnight it became pretty important that we added a bit of depth there.
"When you can add someone of that quality to your squad, especially at this time of year with the injuries we've had in that position it's certainly a bonus for us."
Mortimer first shot to prominence when he played a key role playing five-eighth in Parramatta's charge to the 2009 Grand Final against Melbourne and then last year played in every game for the champion Roosters, starting just once when five-eighth James Maloney was on State of Origin duty.
Having turned 25 on June 13 and with bloodlines as famous as any in rugby league, the Titans can be confident that his best football is very much still ahead of him.