Stirling Mortlock has busted a New Zealand side's defensive line for the last time with confirmation the prolific former Wallabies centre will retire at the end of the Super Rugby season.
The 35-year-old, who played the last of his 80 tests against the Springboks in Cape Town in 2009, will also end his career at Newlands when the Melbourne Rebels complete their season against the Stormers next month.
Mortlock became a foundation member of Super Rugby's newest franchise after leaving the Brumbies in 2010 but has rarely played during two seasons in Melbourne due to a variety of ailments.
Remembered in New Zealand for his intercept try during the 2003 World Cup semifinal in Sydney, Mortlock tormented a Kiwi team for the final time last month when he scored the match-clinching try against the Crusaders - the Rebels' first win against the seven-time champions.
Mortlock retained the captaincy when Robbie Deans began his tenure as the Wallabies head coach in 2008 but little more than a year later his international career was over as the New Zealander introduced younger alternatives to midfield and the veteran's fitness wavered.
A Super Rugby title winner with the Brumbies in 2001 and 2004, Mortlock led the Wallabies in 29 tests.
He was a Wallabies tourist for the first time in 1997 when plucked from Sydney club rugby by Rod Macqueen but had to wait until 2000 before he made his test debut against Argentina in Brisbane.
He missed the following international season due to injury but returned to test duty in 2002 and became an automatic selection.
In his prime Mortlock was considered one of the code's premier midfielders and he was also an accomplished goal kicker.
His 489 international points rank him fourth on the all-time scoring list for the Wallabies while his 29 tries is the seventh highest haul by an Australian international.
Mortlock has played more than 140 Super Rugby games and remains the highest-scoring Australian in the competition's history, the only Australian to rack up more than 1000 points.
He said he was still coming to terms with his decision when fronting a press conference in Melbourne a day after the Wallabies secured a series win over Wales at Etihad Stadium.
"There's no secret I still love what I do and still love playing. It's more about my body," Mortlock said.
"Being on the sidelines for nine of 10 weeks this season was extremely frustrating and tough. My body is back in the shape I want it to be but I think it is the right time (to retire)."
He briefly reflected on his career before focusing in its conclusion.
"Since my first Wallabies tour in 1997 I have been able to travel the world, with some amazing people, while playing the game I love.
"It really has been an incredible journey and it will take some time for this to sink in," he said, adding: "My immediate focus remains on finishing my career with the Rebels on a positive note."
Mortlock's last game on home soil is against the Queensland Reds at AAMI Park when the tournament resumes on June 29.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should there be golden point extra time in Super Rugby?Related story: (See story)