Brumbies just leave it to 'Beaver'
May 23, 2000
Stirling Mortlock's nickname `Beaver' belies the devastation he has wrought through opposition defences in this year's rugby Super 12.
The ACT outside-centre's ability to find the holes and bullock clear, tied with his thumping mid-field defence, will ensure selectors find Mortlock hard to overlook when Wallabies jumpers are handed out later this year. Also a prolific goal kicker, Mortlock has amassed 180 points for the Brumbies this season to become the leading Super 12 point-scorer.
Along the way he has destroyed the reputations of respected opponents including Auckland's Iliesa Tanivula, Springbok Japie Mulder and even incumbent Wallabies centre Dan Herbert, who was almost cut in half by crunching Mortlock tackle during the Queensland-ACT clash.
It is a freakish combination of talents on which the Brumbies will rely heavily if they are to halt the Crusaders' bid for a hat-trick of Super 12 titles in this weekend's final in Canberra. Mortlock's sudden prominence is a long way from a lacklustre 1999 when the Sydney University science graduate struggled with his goal kicking and his ability to break through tight drift defences.
But since then Mortlock has stacked on 5kg, focused on his speed with an Australian Institute of Sport sprint coach and devoted hours of extra work on his goal kicking under the guidance Northern Eagles rugby league player Jason Taylor. Typically, the quietly spoken 23-year-old, who joined the Brumbies from Gordon in 1997, attributed most of his success to the abilities of the Wallabies inside-back duo George Gregan and Stephan Larkham.
"They're creating all the opportunities," Mortlock said. "All I try to do is just run an angle into a gap or whatever and they hit me, and they're probably two of the best ball players in Australian rugby.
"To have them both in the same team is pretty special and normally, if we get quality ball, more often than not they hit me in a decent size gap and I think that's been contributing to my form this year."
After the Cats targeted Mortlock during their 28-5 semi-final loss to the Brumbies, the solid centre is ready for more of the same the Crusaders.
"The last few weeks I've been very sore a couple of days after the game, so I'm definitely expecting a big confrontation from their inside backs and also their loose forwards," Mortlock said. "Their defensive line is unbelievable ... so I think you've just got to call it like you're going to get smashed and just go in there as hard as you can."
Brumbies skipper Brett Robinson said Mortlock was unlucky not to be selected by the Wallabies last year but this year he had taken another step up.
"If form was the defining factor, then he should be a great chance of starting for Australia," he said. "Daniel Herbert's a magnificent Wallaby and someone who would be very tough to knock out, but on his Super 12 performance this year there have been few of his (Mortlock's) equal."
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