"It's been an absolute privilege and honour to play for the Rebels" ... Stirling Mortlock. Photo: Mal Fairclough
HE HAS had a standout career over 15 seasons, but Stirling Mortlock, who yesterday announced he would retire at the end of the Super Rugby season, still believes there were things he could have done better.
However, the 35-year-old said there could not be a better way to finish than by leading the Melbourne Rebels for his final three games.
''You always look back and think there are things that you could have done more of or better or made more contributions, but that fuel and hunger and desire is what helps guys get the best out of themselves,'' Mortlock said.
''I think that's the way most guys at this level have to be. You always want to do better, want to give more. Having said that, I've been very lucky to have done a lot of things that I've done and to be part of some amazing teams in some great eras, and finishing of my career at the Rebels is a massive highlight for me.''
Mortlock, regarded as one of the best centres of his generation, played 80 Tests for Australia, 29 as captain, and more than 140 Super Rugby games since his debut for the Brumbies in 1998.
But yesterday Mortlock conceded his bash-and-crash style, which led to many injuries, had finally taken its toll and after spending a large part of this season on the sidelines, he could not see how his body could carry on.
Mortlock is in the second year of a three-year deal with the Rebels but has played only five games this season because of a calf injury and has been in the starting team only once, against the Brumbies in round 15.
''It's been an absolute privilege and honour to play for the Rebels through its first season and this year, but I feel personally it's the right time for me to go out,'' he said.
''I still love doing exactly what I'm doing, I still love contributing to the team … unfortunately this year being on the sidelines for nine or 10 weeks at the beginning of the season was extremely frustrating and tough, and I wouldn't want [that] to happen if I was to go around again …
''I want to feel like I am making a decent contribution to the team as opposed to being a passenger.''
Mortlock will play his last game in Australia when the Rebels play the Reds at AAMI Park on June 29.