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Daniel Mortimer with Parramatta Eels fans.

Daniel Mortimer says he probably could have dragged another season or two out of his battered body but decided to knock back a one-year deal from an NRL club in Sydney to instead put his teaching degree to use on the Gold Coast, where his wife's family is based.

The 29-year-old spent a decade punching above his weight, exploding onto the scene in Parramatta's miracle run to the 2009 grand final and winning the 2013 premiership with the Roosters before stints with the Titans, Sharks and Leigh Centurions in the UK.

The latter stint was punctuated by serious injuries, which was a big factor in Mortimer deciding to retire from top-line footy a year out from his 30th birthday.

"I've had quite a few surgeries recently, two MCLs. My body was struggling a little bit," Mortimer told just minutes after leaving the classroom on his first day as a teacher on the Gold Coast.

"I could have played on a little bit more. I had an offer from Sydney, a one-year contract. I sat down with the wife, had a big discussion. We've moved around a lot lately and not quite settled somewhere and I thought it was time to make a decision based on her so I decided to hang them up.

Daniel Mortimer at the Sharks in 2017.
Daniel Mortimer at the Sharks in 2017. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

"I didn't think I could give a club what it probably deserved. At this stage of my career, 29, I've had some big surgeries lately, I thought going around again would have just been prolonging the inevitable, that my body has had it.

"I'm excited about the new chapter as well. It wasn't an easy decision but now that I've made it I'm quite content."

The shopping list of recent injuries punctuates just what Mortimer has had to put his comparatively small frame through in 10 years of top-level footy - a full hamstring reattachment before even starting at Leigh, a biceps reattachment surgery as well as two MCL surgeries.

"It's been a tough few years on the body and I realised coming back [to Australia] that I wasn't 21 anymore and I would have to make a decision whether it was this year or the next year or two so I thought why prolong it, I'll start with the new life now. It was tough but taking all things into account I feel like it was the right decision.

"My wife has followed me around for seven years and her family is based on the Goldy so I'll be here for at least 12 months. It's time to put her first, for once in my life! We've got some very good friends up here. So we're looking at at least 12 months here then we'll reassess where we're at and see what happens."

In addition to teaching, Mortimer is a chance of a playing, coaching or captain/coach role in a local team.

"I've had approaches from a few club up here – I love my bush footy," the Orange CYMS product continued.

Daniel Mortimer at the Titans.
Daniel Mortimer at the Titans. ©NRL Photos

Mortimer's playing record – 10 seasons, almost 150 top-grade games, two grand finals and a premiership ring – is one plenty of players would kill for.

"Mate, I've got four brothers who would've killed for that experience, I know how lucky I've had it," he said.

"To play one game was my goal. Losing that 2009 grand final really lit a fire so I was lucky to be a part of the 2013 side. An NRL career takes you so many places and you just have to roll with it, it's a rollercoaster, I had a fair share of ups and downs but it's time for me to jump off."

In late 2012, Mortimer marched into new coach Trent Robinson's office to ask for a release to take up an appealing offer from the Titans, but he wasn't ready for the answer he got.

"His second day of pre-season I asked to leave. I didn't even think he knew who I was," Mortimer laughed.

"I walked into this meeting, I had an offer to go to the Titans, I was expecting him to say 'sweet mate, no problems' but he said 'no, you're not going anywhere'. I was really shocked.

"But he had faith in me, from that day on I trained hard and I played every game the next year including the premiership. After the grand final he came and found me and said 'are you glad you stayed?' and gave me a big hug. So all was forgiven!"

Aside from the two grand finals, Mortimer said his favourite moment in the NRL was the unexpected chance to face off against his childhood hero, Warriors great Stacey Jones.

"A personal highlight for me was playing against Stacey Jones; he was my idol as a kid," Mortimer said.

Daniel Mortimer and Anthony Minichiello after the 2013 grand final.
Daniel Mortimer and Anthony Minichiello after the 2013 grand final. ©NRL Photos

"He went overseas before I debuted so I thought I'd never get the chance then after his stint at Catalans he came back.

"In 2009 there was one game at Parramatta Stadium I got to line up opposite him. I was too scared to say anything to him but that was a huge honour for me. Apart from the grand finals that was a huge moment for me.

"But I've had so many good moments and made so many great friends made through the years."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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