Orange’s Dan Mortimer has impressed during the opening half of the Cronulla Sharks’ pre-season, putting himself firmly in the frame to wear the No.9 jersey come the start of the 2017 NRL season.
Mortimer had reportedly agreed to terms with Super League side Hull KR, but his contract contained a clause that allowed him to renege should an NRL opportunity arise, which it did at Cronulla after premiership-winning rake Michael Ennis retired at the end of last season.
While the Wests Tigers also made a play for Mortimer, who only played seven games for the Gold Coast Titans in the 2016 season due to a hamstring injury, but the 27-year-old elected to shift to the shire instead.
“Obviously the Sharks have been building for a long time now and after their performance this year it was hard to resist the opportunity to come here,” Mortimer said.
“I’m just very excited for the opportunity and I’m looking forward to giving it my all come next year.”
Mortimer is deep into his first pre-season campaign with the Sharks and has reportedly impressed the coaching staff with his fitness and attitude, suggesting he’ll not only pressure plenty of incumbents but may now be favourite to slip into Ennis’ old jersey.
Although, he’ll be in a tough battle with fellow recruit and former Tigers dummy-half Manaia Cherrington.
However, Mortimer said he’s just focusing on settling in at Cronulla – which he confirmed he’s doing easily – and playing a role, any role, for the Sharks.
“That’s my biggest goal, to be a part of it and try to play as much NRL with the Sharks as I can,” he said.
“Earning the players’ and fans’ respect is big for me too, hopefully I can play some good footy and do that.
“I’ve settled in quite quickly. All the boys have been great so far, we’re all footy boys, we’re all the same breed so it’s not too hard to get along with everyone.
“I actually played a bit of juniors with Ricky (Leutele), then with James Maloney at the Roosters. Jeremy Latimore, another new recruit, as well, and Tony Williams during my Parramatta days.
“It’s a funny world rugby league, everywhere you go you tend to know a few people and it’s no different here.
“We’re learning all the structures and there’s a lot of young guys here, so that’s keeping us on our feet, they’re all full of enthusiasm.”
In his nine-year career, Mortimer has made 126 appearances across three clubs and played in two grand finals – winning one – so he boasts plenty of experience.
Outside his stint at Parramatta though, he’s struggled somewhat to nail down a regular starting position and will be looking to do so at his new club in the coming season.