Steve Mortimer

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Steve Mortimer OAM, (born 15 July 1956), nicknamed Turvey after Turvey Park in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, where he hailed from,[1] is an Australian former rugby league halfback. Mortimer played a Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs club record 272 first grade games between 1976–88. Mortimer's two younger brothers Peter and Chris also played for the club. Chris played 192 first grade games between 1978–87 and Peter 190 first grade games between 1977–87.

Background

Mortimer's junior club was the Kooringal Magpies.[2] He then played for Wagga Wagga's Turvey park club.

Playing career

Spotted by Peter Moore playing for Riverina in the 1975 Amco Cup, Mortimer tore his future club Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs to pieces and was Man of the Match despite Riverina losing. 'Bullfrog' Moore when asked about Mortimer's performance uttered the words "will never play against Canterbury-Bankstown ever again", and true to Bullfrog's word he never did. Mortimer captained Canterbury to Premierships in 1984 and 1985 and was a member of the 1980 and 1988 triumphs. His performances in the 1980 and 1985 victories were vintage Mortimer. In the 1980 decider he saved three certain Eastern Suburbs tries through superb cover tackles (a great Mortimer trademark). In the 1985 Grand Final it was Mortimer's captaincy and direction that controlled Canterbury field position and possession as they buried St George into submission following a try to brother Peter Mortimer in the 29th minute. Mortimer captained Canterbury to a narrow loss in 1986 and also played in the 1979 Grand Final loss, on both occasions Mortimer was the sole reason Canterbury were in the match. During Mortimer's final five seasons at Canterbury he formed a great halves combination with the master of support play in Terry Lamb. During their five years together at Canterbury, the Bulldogs made four Grand Finals and won three of them. Lamb was a non-playing reserve in the 1985 Grand Final after being ruled out due to injury and Mortimer missed 68 minutes of the 1988 Grand Final but their respective contributions in both those years can't be ignored. Lamb would later captain Canterbury between 1990–95 and usher in a new breed of Bulldogs that weren't around in the Mortimer era. Mortimer nearly joined Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles for the 1987 season but stayed put at Canterbury. He was advised to retire after 1988 rather than join another club, which ensured his status as one of the most loyal players to play the game of rugby league. Despite troubles at Canterbury during his latter years, Mortimer was a one-club man and retired playing 272 first grade games, which at the time was the most for one NSWRL club.

His representative career faced challenges from other great halfbacks of his era including Tommy Raudonikis, Steve Morris, Kevin Hastings and most notably Peter Sterling.[3] Despite the presence of great halfbacks, Mortimer played 16 matches for New South Wales between 1977–85 including nine under the State of Origin banner. Mortimer captained the Blues in 1984/85 in three matches (all victories) and was the first captain to lead New South Wales to State of Origin success. He was also named man-of-the-match in the final game of the 1984 State of Origin series. Mortimer is credited with bringing the passion into the Blues jersey and led a new wave of NSW players that would be the core of the team for many years to come including those such as Wayne Pearce, Brett Kenny, Michael O'Connor, Garry Jack, Steve Roach, Noel Cleal, Ben Elias and his brother Chris Mortimer.

Mortimer played 8 Test matches for Australia between 1981–84 where he scored two tries in his Test debut against France at the Sydney Cricket Ground with Australia winning 43–2. Also making his debut in that Test match was rugby league immortal Wally Lewis, who played outside Mortimer at five-eighth. Between 1980–85, the breakdown of appearances for halfbacks at Test level was Steve Mortimer 8 Tests, Peter Sterling 6 Tests, Mark Murray 6 Tests and Des Hasler 1 Test. Mortimer was named vice-captain of Australia's 1985 tour of New Zealand but made himself unavailable due to business reasons with Murray and Hasler sharing the halfback position. Mortimer later regretted standing down as a major conflict erupted between coach Terry Fearnley and captain Wally Lewis. Fearnley was NSW coach in 1985 and Mortimer previously played alongside Lewis in Test and Kangaroo Tour campaigns. Mortimer and Lewis were room-mates on the 1982 Kangaroo Tour.

Coaching career

Mortimer played under four coaches during his 13 seasons at Canterbury. His enterprising and brilliant style of football was encouraged and enhanced under the coaching of Malcolm Clift and Ted Glossop. Mortimer's style was reined in during the "Wozzaball" era under Warren Ryan between 1984–87. Mortimer and Ryan often clashed but through all of that they formed one of the most successful coach-captain combinations winning two Premierships and runners-up another year during Ryan's four years at Canterbury, which Mortimer was captain for all that period except the first half of the 1984 season. Mortimer's performance in the 1985 Grand Final was one of his finest tactical efforts where he followed Ryan's game plan to a tee with the Mortimer's kicking game with his bombs into the ingoal area too much for the St. George Dragons to handle.

Mortimer's final year at Canterbury was under the coaching of Phil Gould where he stood down from the captaincy after Round 5. Mortimer's performances on the field were vintage but a virus and broken wrist cut his appearances to just 14 and also played 5 games as a fresh replacement. The NSWRL allowed teams for the first time outside of semi-finals to have fresh reserves for club matches and Gould utilised Mortimer when he returned from a virus to great effect including one match and his only time against Allan Langer where in 31 minutes Mortimer turned a club match against Brisbane Broncos on its head to win Man of the Match. He broke his wrist in the second last round but was fit enough to be a reserve in the Grand Final victory against Balmain Tigers. Fittingly Mortimer was the last player to touch the ball in a dash from dummy half.

Administration

The Bulldogs salary cap crisis in 2002 saw Mortimer return to Canterbury to save the club from trouble. Mortimer led from the front with the passion and dedication he displayed on the field. The Bulldogs emerged from the dramas with flying colours for the 2003 season. They fell one game short of the Grand Final but the signs were there for a big 2004. Dramas in the pre-season saw Mortimer stand down as Chief Executive Officer but the foundations he put in place and the players he helped recruit saw Canterbury under the coaching of Steve Folkes win their 8th Premiership.

Mortimer will be remembered as one of the all-time great halfbacks, a player who brought the passion into the State of Origin for New South Wales, a great captain for his state and country and a great ambassador for the sport of rugby league on and off the field.

Outside football

Mortimer, after his playing days, set up a very successful "Shuffleboard" business, which focused on a game used mostly by 'retirement homes'. He has made several media appearances and was a member of Channel Seven's Sports World programme in the early 1990s and Fox Sports NRL coverage. Since 2005, he has been regularly seeen on Sky News as their rugby league expert.

On 24 October 2000, Steve Mortimer was recipient of the Australian Sports Medal.[4]

In February 2008, Mortimer was named in the list of Australia's 100 Greatest Players (1908–2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code's centenary year in Australia.[5][6]

See also

References

External links