Former Wallabies captain Stirling Mortlock says he will retire from all rugby at the end of the current Super Rugby season, ending a career of 80 test matches and more than 140 games of Super Rugby.
The 35-year-old centre will play his last game on Australian soil when he leads the Melbourne Rebels against the reigning Super 15 champions, the Queensland Reds at Melbourne’s AAMI Park on June 29.
The bald-headed Mortlock’s last match will be played in South Africa when the Rebels meet the Stormers at Cape Town on July 14.
Mortlock’s last season has been a battle with injuries, typifying his career.
A calf injury prevented him from making his first appearance until the 12th round of the season.
Mortlock scored 489 points in tests and is the only Australian to have scored 1 000 points in Super rugby. The strong-running midfielder reached 50 and 100 test points more quickly than any other Australian player previously.
“There’s no secret I still love what I do and still love playing. It’s more about my body,” Mortlock said.
“Being on the sidelines for nine of 10 weeks this season was extremely frustrating and tough.
Now my body is back in the shape I want it to be, but nevertheless I think it is the right time to retire.”
Mortlock first played for Australia in 1997 when Rugby World Cup-winning coach Rod MacQueen plucked him out of club rugby at the age of 20.
Mortlock made his test debut three years later against Argentina, and took to international rugby like a duck to water, scoring 20 points or more in four consecutive tests in his first test season.
The centre with the build of a forward is remembered for his 80m intercept try in the semi- finals of the 2003 World Cup which clinched Australia’s win over New Zealand and sent them into the final, won by England.
Mortlock played more than 100 matches for the ACT Brumbies and was named Super Rugby’s Player of the Year in 2002.
Mortlock said he had few regrets.
“You always look back and think there are things you could have done more of or better,” he said.
“That fuel and hunger and desire is what helps guys get the best out of themselves.”
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said Mortlock, who played his last test in 2009, was involved in many of the golden moments of Australian rugby.
“Stirling’s playing achievements speak for themselves and his is a record which is a testament to his commitment, self- belief and his full throttle approach to the game,” Deans said.