Mortlock eyes potential move to Rebels - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mortlock eyes potential move to Rebels

By Jim Morton 15/03/2010 08:06:12 PM Comments (0)

Stirling Mortlock's late-career fade may not only cost him his place in the Brumbies side on Friday but also a marquee position at the Melbourne Rebels.

Mortlock is keen to take up a multi-year offer to pioneer the Rebels entry into the Super 15 from next season.

The former Wallabies skipper would be a catch for the expansion club but they can not compete with the money on offer abroad without significant top-up money from the Australian Rugby Union.

Rebels officials say Mortlock's value as a drawcard is invaluable to the start-up franchise which only has English international Danny Cipriani on their books.

But the ARU is not prepared to grant the 33-year-old, who missed the last half of 2009 through leg injuries, anything more than a single-year deal.

Mortlock's manager, Nick Johnston, met with ARU officials on Monday to seek clarity over his offer but it appears the national body is unwilling to budge in a time of growing financial constraints.

"It's the first time in my career I'm genuinely thinking about going overseas or staying," Mortlock said.

"I'm not really sure what I want to do but at this stage Melbourne is a fantastic opportunity and one I didn't think I'd get."

It appears the only way the Rebels can lure the 80-Test centre is by digging deep and paying him extra in the second and third years of his deal.

The Rebels targeted Wallabies Berrick Barnes, Dave Pocock, Benn Robinson, Peter Hynes and Mortlock but only remain in the race for the last two.

They say they're set to sign six to eight players - including Laurie Weeks, Adam Byrnes, Richard Kingi, Tim Davidson, Lachy Mitchell and Peter Betham - but none was announced when restrictions were lifted on Monday.

Former Wallabies Adam Freier and Sam Cordingley are also in negotiations.

Mortlock is suffering a neck injury but is looking likely to be replaced by Tyrone Smith if cleared to meet the Blues in Auckland on Friday.

Smith made an impressive impact off the bench after replacing the battered Mortlock, who has endured a slow start to 2010, in the 24-22 win over the Sharks.

Coach Andy Friend admitted Wallabies tourist Smith could start even if Mortlock, who missed training on Monday, responded well to treatment.

"There's no need pushing a bloke like Stirling if he's not right," Friend said.

"What we know is when he's on his game and got real energy the whole team feeds off that. If he hasn't got that energy he doesn't have the same vibe and the team doesn't get that same feeling."

While there was no word of Rebels signings, Friend declared the Brumbies would "up the ante" in keeping their off-contract players.

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