It was obvious upon his arrival in Bathurst today that Orange-raised Daniel Mortimer certainly is popular in the central-west region of NSW where he played his junior football.
Two television crews, WIN TV and Prime Television, travelled from Orange, 55km, to interview ‘Morts’at the team hotel before the side went to training and then drove the 40 minutes back to Orange to ensure the storey was on tonight’s news bulletin. As usual, he was always available to his hometown media and supporters.
The Orange CYMS junior last played in Bathurst in 2006 as a 17-year-old before he was recruited by Parramatta as going into year 12 at school, to play in the Eels S G Ball (under 18s) side, travelling to training late in the week each match, a three-hour drive.
Carrington Park, venue of tomorrow’s match, is where he played two grand finals with CYMS as a junior, but unfortunately lost both – under-12s and under-16s.
He remembers watching big time rugby league come to Bathurst when the City-Country Origin match was played there in 2001 when he was 12, and a better memory was when the annual representative match was held in Orange in 2009, weeks before he made his NRL debut for the Eels as a 19-year-old five-eighth and weeks later went on to play in the grand final against Melbourne.
“It’s great to be home and catch up with family and friends but that can come after the game,” he said. “It’s about getting the job done first and hopefully I can have a relaxing beer with the old man after the game.
“I know there is tremendous support for NRL out here and it’s great the Panthers are bringing NRL matches to Bathurst, and have a five-deal to take a game a year to Carrington Park.
“It does feel a bit surreal being back here now as an NRL player, after playing juniors here and dreaming of one day playing in the NRL. I certainly pinpointed this game out when I saw the draw and it’s nearly here now.
“It would really be nice to walk off Carrington with a win.”
Mortimer grew up on the family vineyard north of Orange and travelled to places like Bathurst, Oberon and Mudgee playing rugby league.
His grandmother will be at the match along with brothers Tim, now back playing for Orange CYMS, youngest Rob who is at university at Bathurst and James who lives in Sydney. Naturally parents Peter and Julie will be there while his uncle Steve, one of the three premiership-winning Mortimer brothers of the 1980s (they won the 1980, 1984 and 1985 grand finals together) will take the trip west from his Sydney home.
“I had to ask for 15 tickets … luckily none of the other boys have family from around here so I was able to poach more than usual,” he smiled.
Mortimer’s performance alongside Aidan Sezer will be a vital aspect of the match, with them up against the experienced Jamie Soward and Peter Wallace who have perhaps the best combined kicking game in the NRL.
However, halves can only be as good as the momentum the forwards give them, and the Titans have a big task to match the young and aggressive Penrith pack tomorrow afternoon.