Stirling Mortlock would not have been surprised that he missed out on selection for Wallabies coach Robbie Deans’ latest 40 man end of year tour squad. If anything the former test captain was quite philosophical about it as he has been spending most of his energies recuperating for what could be a landmark 2011.
The veteran, with 80 test caps and over a century of Super rugby appearances, underwent back surgery earlier this year.
That precluded him from being part of the Wallabies plans for 2010, and there was no doubt that the young Australian team missed the 33 year old’s experience and physical presence against All Black and Springbok midfields averaging over 200kg.
Mortlock is concentrating on making a full recovery, having recently resumed running duties, and is looking forward to playing under Rabodirect Rebels coach Rod Macqueen, who gave the Sydney born centre his test debut against Argentina in 2000.
What makes his comeback so anticipated is that the Gordon club representative has a knack of doing things that others can’t.
A prolific point’s scorer, with over 1,000 Super rugby points and nearly 500 test points, Mortlock quickly became a match winner, kicking a difficult sideline penalty to beat the Springboks in Durban in 2000, giving the Wallabies their first Tri Nations crown.
Man of the match against the All Blacks when Australia beat their old rivals 22-10 in the 2003 Rugby World Cup semi final, Mortlock became his country’s 73rd national captain in 2006, and will likely be a part of 2011 World Cup plans.
Deans has made a habit of selecting young players, as well as not publicly endorsing anyone, but the former Crusaders boss has said more than once that Mortlock is still in his calculations.
Mortlock is still recuperating from surgery, and hopes to be training in full by December.
“The injury's going really well and that's where I'm focused at the moment," he said on Tuesday to AAP.
"That's going really well and the next port of call for me will be to get training ... and down the track we'll see. I definitely want to give myself some good lead-in time to the trials next year and be part of those."
Some have said that the Rabodirect Rebel, who signed a three year contract with the Melbourne based side, may be running out of time to get into the World Cup, with the seventh global tournament now less than a year away.
Mortlock said he wasn’t too concerned.
"Not at all although I did have a sentimental moment leading up to the Bledisloe Cup match in Sydney because it's a year out from the World Cup," he said.
"That was when I saw the surgeon that week as well, who said I could start running so it was a very good week for me personally.
"I'm focused on helping the Rebels go as well as possible and I think on the back of the extended Super season, it's a great opportunity for anybody to show their wares and put their hands up for the squad next year."
Some feel that Mortlock is the natural choice to become the Rabodirect Rebels inaugural club captain, but Macqueen said there was no imminent plan to name a skipper.
"It will probably be player driven," Macqueen said.
"Management will have a part in it but I see this being very much a joint thing. We're all in this together."