Australian Rugby Union today congratulated former Qantas Wallabies Stirling Mortlock and George Smith on being appointed Members of the Order of Australia (AM).
The former Australian team-mates, who both made their international debuts in 2000, received the awards as part of the annual Australia Day Honours for 2012.
ARU Managing Director and CEO, John O’Neill AO, welcomed the appointments and congratulated the pair.
“Both George and Stirling are more than deserving of this recognition with their appointments as Members of the Order of Australia,” Mr O’Neill said.
“Over a long period of time they have both served Rugby at a State and National level as captains and have been good role models to both junior and senior players as well as contributing in the community.
“Since joining the Melbourne Rebels in 2010 Stirling has shown great leadership both on and off the field helping to guide Australia’s newest Super Rugby side through its first season as well as helping grow the game throughout Victoria.
“While George has played overseas for the past two years he has always kept an eye on what is happening in Australia and continues to lend a helping hand when needed.
“The most recent example was during last year’s devastating Queensland Floods when George, of his own accord, put together an amazing money can’t buy experience to help raise funds for the Premier’s Flood Appeal.”
Between them Mortlock and Smith have enjoyed a series wins against the British and Irish Lions in 2001, Bledisloe Cup victories between 2000 and 2002, Tri Nations titles in 2000 and 2001 and two Rugby World Cup campaigns in 2003 and 2007.
Mortlock, who made his Test debut against Argentina in 2000 has secured 80 Tests caps, his most recent in 2009 against South Africa.
The hard running centre captained the Qantas Wallabies on 28 occasions, including Australia’s five matches during the 2007 Rugby World Cup campaign in France and was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his services to Rugby, particularly as captain of the Wallabies.
Speaking before the Melbourne Rebels training in Melbourne Mortlock said it was a massive honour and a privilege to be appointed a Member of the Order of Australia.
“I’ve been extremely blessed and honoured to have played Rugby in Australia for a long period of time and in particular to have been part of the Wallabies and captain of the Wallabies is a tremendous honour,” Mortlock said.
“I am still very much enjoying playing Rugby in Australia for the Melbourne Rebels and having the chance to help grow the game in Victoria.
“I’ve always valued the opportunity to play in Australia and for Australia for a long period time and I am humbled to have been recognised on both the national and international stage.”
Smith who debut against France in 2000 accumulated 110 Tests caps over his 10-year international career, seven of which were as Captain.
He is the second most capped Wallaby behind only George Gregan (139 Test caps), the 8th most capped player in the history of the game and the 3rd most capped forward.
Smith also holds the distinction of winning the John Eales Medal twice as Qantas Wallabies Player of the Year and won four consecutive Super Rugby Player of the Year titles from 2006 to 2009.
Speaking from Japan early this morning Smith said he was extremely humbled to receive the Australia Day honour.
“I am very fortunate to have had the opportunities and career I’ve had,” Smith said.
“Playing for the Wallabies provided me with an amazing chance to help out off the Rugby field and I am so thankful to have been able to do that on a number of different levels.
Mr O’Neill also congratulated Former Sydney and Premiership winning coach Mr Peter Fenton, who was also appointed a Member of the Order of Australia today.
Mr Fenton, who was appointed for his service to the Australian film industry as a sound engineer, has also played a significant in role Rugby as a coach, commentator and author over more than 30 years.