Mehrtens, Gregan get on like a house on fire
They were never room-mates during their illustrious rugby careers, but Andrew Mehrtens and George Gregan will be under the same roof in Sydney after the All Blacks great'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 apartment 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 the babysitter escaped unharmed.
One of his children alerted the babysitter after finding a bedroom full of smoke, and the occupants quickly evacuated the two-level home about 7.20pm.
Mehrtens' father Terry Mehrtens said he was not at all concerned about his son's safety.
"Andrew phoned this morning and said he's alright," he said.
Andrew and his wife had been "just down the road" having dinner when the incident took place, Terry said.
"Ivy [Andrew's daughter] went up stairs into Andrew's room for some reason and there was smoke in the room," he said.
Terry said the babysitter had called Andrew, who then "sprinted home".
However, the fire was not big and everyone had safely escaped.
"There are pipes going up through the ceiling up stairs, they weren't protected in any way and there was timber nearby, that was it," he said.
Fire and Rescue New South Wales 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".
"They probably had the fireplace going and it got between the floors somehow,'' he said.
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, which did not cause significant damage.
Buckley said the area "would have been fairly smoke-logged" as there were many 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 the 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.