Mortlock the man to lead the Rebels

Stathi Paxinos
February 2, 2011

Stirling Mortlock, the man who will today be officially appointed the inaugural captain of the Melbourne Rebels, has a number of nicknames, some of them clean, others possibly not for young ears.

But the former Australian skipper has widespread respect within the rugby community and was the best person for the job, former Wallaby front-rower Fletcher Dyson said yesterday.

His view was backed by other former Wallabies Pat Howard and David Wilson, while Rebels teammate Adam Freier said Mortlock and Welsh import Gareth Delve, who will be announced as vice-captain today, had been the standout leaders among a team that had more than a dozen players with captaincy experience.

Dyson yesterday said Mortlock, who once had the nickname ''Flippy'' because of his tendency for wild antics at the spur of the moment, such as ''barking like a dog while walking down the Champs Elysees in Paris'', was a lead-from-the-front character who could inspire those around him on the field. To Dyson, the former Australian captain was the obvious choice.

''He's a unique character but one that can mould a team and he leads by example which, in my book, is a very important role for a captain,'' Dyson said.

''He's a very focused individual when game time's on. There's no mucking around. He's out there to win and to lead the team and if that's the way the Rebels are going then that's a great choice.''

Freier, who would have been a captaincy candidate himself, said Mortlock and Delve stood out as the leaders in the team.

''I think it's sensational, I think it's a good pick,'' Freier said. '' I think both the leaders they have chosen to represent the Rebels are among the highest regarded in the team. The respect of the state will come but initially you have to have the respect of the playing group and there's no doubt there's just a mountain of respect for both those people as players and people.''

''I always think of a good leader being when they speak [you look at] the body language amongst the group and when each of these characters speak, that being Gareth or Sterlo, there's usually not too many people looking at the floor or doodling on pads or looking out the windows. Their attentions are always spot on and that's one of the reasons why they are the inaugural leaders of the Rebels.''

Howard said Mortlock's experience would prove invaluable on and off the field.

''I think with a team you're trying to gel together with a reasonable amount of experience it's very good to have an experienced captain in there more so off the field than on and that's where he can give a real discipline to what the guys are doing.

''When you are starting to put a new group together you need to put a clear leader in and I'm sure [that was] one of the things that was in the back of Rod Macqueen's mind when he got him down there. ''

However, Howard said Mortlock's history of injuries- he is returning from a serious back injury - would have delayed his appointment until Macqueen was assured of his fitness.