As the debate over the NRL’s crackdown on high tackles rages on, one of the legends of the game has a sobering message to players who have expressed anger towards ARL chairman Peter V’landys for the recent rule changes.
Former champion Canterbury halfback and NSW Origin captain Steve Mortimer, 64, has opened up about his secret battle with dementia in the hope his condition will give today’s playing group a reality check.
In recent days, leading players have reportedly spoken of ousting V’landys in the wake of record charges filed against players for making contact with the head.
Mortimer said his condition is “absolutely” linked to head knocks suffered during his career and that he got in touch with V’landys after reading reports about the players’ stance.
“I said, ‘you have just got to forget all these people who are against you’,” Mortimer told News Corp of his conversation with V’landys on Monday.
“And these blokes who want to stick it up Peter V’landys or whatever have got no bloody idea.
When asked if he was doing okay, Mortimer said:
“I believe I am. No one wants me to be a commentator now and that is all.
“I respect that.
“I am fine.
“But I do have part of my brain that has died from playing the game of rugby league.”
Mortimer has been battling the illness for years and his family, including his footballing brothers Peter, Chris and Glen were all aware of his condition.
Mortimer is a Bulldogs legend and is arguably the most famous Canterbury player alongside Terry Lamb, having played for the club and led them in the front office.
He played 272 games for Canterbury, 16 matches for NSW, which included captaining the Blues to that historic first-ever State of Origin series in 1985.
The vision of Mortimer being carried off the ground by his teammates is one of the most enduring Origin images of all time.