They were never roommates during their illustrious rugby careers, but Andrew Mehrtens and George Gregan will be under the same roof in Sydney for the immediate future after the All Black legend's rental property caught fire last night.
Gregan was responsible for one of the most infamous sledges in trans-Tasman rugby history during the 2003 World Cup semifinal against the All Blacks when he taunted halfback Byron Kelleher with the words "four more years!" when it was obvious the Wallabies were bound for the decider.
However, international rugby's most-capped player was more conciliatory to a former adversary after Mehrtens cut short a dinner date when told a faulty heating system had caused a minor fire in his rental property last night.
Gregan joined Mehrtens at the house in Double Bay, in the city's eastern suburbs, as fire crews brought the blaze under control and offered to house his old rival until the family find new accommodation.
Mehrtens, who recently relocated to Sydney with his wife and two children after finishing his playing career in France, was grateful to accept the offer - and was also relieved his children and a babysitter escaped unharmed.
One of his children alerted the babysitter when discovering a bedroom was full of smoke and the occupants quickly evacuated the two-level home about 7.20pm.
Fire and Rescue NSW Inspector Norman Buckley said five fire engines were sent to the property after a fire ignited in a heating flue.
The fire originated between decking and flooring and "spread laterally", he said.
"They probably had the fireplace going and it got between the floors somehow.
"However, the fire was quickly brought under control and it "wasn't a real big fire at the end of the day."
Firefighters pulled up timber decking to extinguish the fire, but the blaze did not cause significant damage.
However, Buckley said the area "would have been fairly smoke-logged", as there were a high number of calls from people reporting the fire.
Mehrtens, who played 70 tests at first five-eighth between 1995 and 2004, continued his career in England with Harlequins before moving to France where he played for Toulon, Racing Metro and Beziers.
The 40-year-old has been recruited by Centric Wealth,a financial planning and account provider, to market its platform and advisory services to super funds.
Mehrtens' father, Terry, says he was not concerned about his son's safety in a house fire in Sydney last night.
"Andrew phoned this morning and said he's all right," he said.
The former All Black and his wife had been "just down the road" having dinner when the fire occurred in their rental property.
"Ivy [Andrew's daughter] went upstairs into Andrew's room for some reason and there was smoke in the room," Terry said.
He said the babysitter had called Andrew, who "sprinted home".
The fire was not a big one, and everyone had got out safely.
"There are pipes going up through the ceiling upstairs. They weren't protected in any way and there was timber nearby - that was it," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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