Daniel Mortimer hasn’t ruled out one day captain-coaching in the bush but for now his focus is on finding passion away from rugby league.
The 29-year-old announced his retirement on Sunday night, the Orange CYMS junior deciding to hung up the boots following 128 games in the NRL with the Parramatta Eels, Sydney Roosters, Gold Coast Titans and Cronulla Sharks, as well as a short stint with Betfred Championship outfit Leigh Centurions over the last two seasons in England.
A qualified teacher, Mortimer and his wife Tasley will move back to the Gold Coast for the next 12 months and spend some time away from the game.
But with 10 years worth of experience in the top flight, two NRL grand final appearances and a premiership ring won with the Roosters in 2013, it’s almost a given Mortimer will be approached by a smorgasbord of bush clubs looking for a new coach.
Speculation is mounting the crafty half will link with a Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League (NRRRL) club given the competition’s proximity to the coast.
Ex-NRL guns Todd Carney and Jamie Lyon have already agreed to coach Byron Bay and Ballina respectively in the NRRRL in 2019.
10 years, 148 games, 1000’s of great memories. The time has come to call it a day on my professional Rugby League Career. Thankyou Mum, Dad, my Brothers and Wife for all your support. To everyone else who played a role in my career, Thankyou with all my heart. Love Morts ❤️🙌🏼 pic.twitter.com/aRMZ2W7xLN— Daniel Mortimer (@Danmorts) November 11, 2018
Closer to home, Group 10 club Mudgee sought out Mortimer for their vacant coaching job prior to Sunday’s announcement.
Mortimer said it was hard to turn down the Dragons’ offer but it’s time to put his family first.
“I definitely would be interested in coaching or playing in the bush, but my wife has followed me around the world for the last seven years and it’s time to base a decision on us,” he said.
“We’ll find our feet up here (on the Gold Coast) for 12 months then reassess. Orange has a massive place in my heart and so does CYMS, I haven’t ruled anything out.
“I’ll have the year off and look at other things, but I’ll probably miss (footy) too much. I’m content with my decision though.”
Mortimer’s career started in a Jarryd Hayne-fueled vortex with Parramatta in 2009.
He debuted as a teenager in the blue and gold when the Eels were sitting 14th on the ladder, Hayne’s seemingly out-of-body form helping Parramatta sneak into the finals before Mortimer and co went on a memorable run to the grand final that year.
The Eels eventually went down to the Storm in the decider, but it later turned out to be a Melbourne outfit that was cheating the salary cap.
Mortimer admits the start of his career still feels like something out of a movie.
“It was such a crazy year. I was a young kid in the 20s and thrust into the limelight. I’ve not experienced anything like that again … it still seems surreal, like I didn’t live it,” he said.
After success at the Eels, Mortimer moved on to the Roosters in 2012 and very nearly left after one season but coach Trent Robinson convinced Mortimer, who at the time was battling to cement a permanent role in the team, to stay.
The decision to remain at the Tri-colours paid off 12 months later when Mortimer came off the bench in the Roosters’ premiership win over Manly in 2013.
I was never been the biggest … but I was hungry and passionate about it, and that made it work.Daniel Mortimer.
“I feel like winning the comp was a great reward for a lot of hard work over a number of years,” Mortimer said.
A utility at the Roosters, Mortimer left mid-2014 in an attempt to lock down a halves role at the Titans but battled to find his feet as a pivot on the Gold Coast.
He played a couple of games with Cronulla in 2017 before eventually linking with Leigh in England.
“I ended up at a few clubs, but I had great experiences and made a lot of great mates,” he said.
He said it was a privilege to play with the likes of dual-code stars Sonny-Bill Williams and Jarryd Hayne and the time Eels veterans Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt took to help a young half make the grade will always be appreciated.
As will the faith coaches Daniel Anderson and Robinson showed in handing Mortimer opportunities in first grade.
But the story of perseverance Titans winger Anthony Don tells sticks with Mortimer, himself a player that had to battle coaches and scouts telling him he wasn’t good enough, or big enough, to make a fist of professional footy.
“I played with a lot of great players but I love Anthony Don and his story. He debuted at 26 and got Titans player of the year at 31. He’s a great story for perseverance,” Mortimer said.
“I was never been the biggest … but I was hungry and passionate about it, and that made it work.
“Playing one game was an unbelievable achievement, but to play nearly 150 games professionally is something I’m really proud of.
“I was often told I was too small, but it drove me. I missed out on rep teams when I was young and the feedback was that I needed to put on size.
“It lit the fire in my belly. You just have to believe in yourself.”
Mortimer thanked everyone who has supported his rugby league career, from near and far, but particularly those in Orange who helped him realise a dream
“I’ve really appreciated it,” he added.