Greatest XV: “I screamed ‘Woo-hah’ but no one heard” – Stirling Mortlock and that brilliant moment of black magic

It’s been 20 years since Stirling Mortlock’s precious World Cup moment, and yet for many of us it still touches the senses like freshly mown grass.

For the roar For fans of a certain age, that euphoric semifinal surprise over the All Blacks in 2003 was the golden pass at party time for eternity.

Thanks to thousands of votes from our readers, The Roar ranks down the Wallabies’ greatest World Cup XV ever from 15th to 1st place

For younger fans who weren’t even born on November 15, 2003, it’s the oft-repeated vision of a wallaby guy in weird black gloves running away to score an interception.

He’s still known as the “Interceptor” when random guys want to shake his hand at rugby.

However you remember it was the defining event in a near-perfect 22-10 win over the Kiwis at Stadium Australia in front of more than 82,000 screaming fans.

Mortlock’s moment is in terms of his choices the roar“s Greatest Wallabies RWC XV” turned everything.
Selection and voting have been specifically tailored to “Impact on the World Cup”. There have been few major individual moments in the Wallabies’ history at the tournament.

Turn it the other way. Without him, would Mortlock have won that No. 13 place ahead of World Cup winners Jason Little (1991) and Daniel Herbert (1999)?

That’s an interesting question because Herbert played like the best outside center in the world in 1999 and young center pairing Tim Horan-Little was a trump card for the Wallabies in 1991.

The Mortlock attempt within the first ten minutes was the only try the Wallabies scored that night in 2003, along with Elton Flatley’s excellent shot on goal.

Stirling Mortlock runs to score Australia's first try. Rugby - Coupe du Monde 2003 - Semifinals: Australia v Nouvelle-Zélande. Stirling Mortlock (Australia) on the author and other contributors (Photo by Manuel Blondeau/Photo & Co./Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

Stirling Mortlock runs to score Australia’s first try in the 2003 semifinals (Photo by Manuel Blondeau/Photo & Co./Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

The attempt was the epitome of a clever game plan executed to perfection by the players and one of Eddie Jones’ coaching highlights.

Everyone in the stands felt something big in the first few minutes. The Wallabies’ defense was fierce and crushing.

The Wallabies actually won the toss and opted to kick off. As a settler, there wasn’t a lame step to touch. The Wallabies held the ball, ran and recycled it from their own 22 with aplomb to ultimately earn a penalty.

The Wallabies were targeting key All Blacks, which meant they had to pressure hooker Keven Mealamu’s lineout throws, hit hard on halfback Justin Marshall (who was eliminated early with a rib punch after a tackle from George Smith) and into action implemented what they learned about Flyhalf Carlos Spencer.

The Wallabies had studied Spencer’s favorite plays under Eddie Jones. You knew he liked a cut pass.

He didn’t adapt to the heat of the Wallabies’ defense and Mortlock capitalized on a floating, spiraling double cut-out pass while the All Blacks attempted to attack 20 yards from goal.

It was a 14 point moment. Mortlock mastered the pass perfectly and shot 80 yards to score and take a 13-0 lead.

Mortlock’s own memories of that moment are still vivid. “It was so loud in the stadium. For the only time in my entire career, I just screamed before reaching the tryline. As I was running, I looked around at about 22 and saw that neither Doug Howlett nor Joe Rokocoko was close behind,” Mortlock recalled.

“I just yelled this ‘Woo-hah,’ but the place was so loud no one would have noticed.”

Mortlock gave Jones credit for returning to the same All Blacks team just months earlier after a disastrous 50-21 loss.

“We worked hard on a game plan for months and executed it almost perfectly. “We were in control most of the time in this semi-final,” said Mortlock.

It was a credit to Mortlock’s own ability to recover that he was there at all, having been forced into a shoulder reconstruction during the Super Rugby season just months earlier.

Fewer people remember Mortlock scoring the winning try in a 33-16 quarter-final win over Scotland in Brisbane in 2003.

The score was 9-9 just after half-time when Mortlock fought back from half-time after flanker Phil Waugh conceded a turnover in the middle of the fray. Mortlock played at a second World Cup in France in 2007 when he captained the team.

Stirling Mortlock is your #13 pick forThe Roar’s Greatest Wallabies Rugby World Cup XV,Backed by ASICS, the official supplier of performance apparel and footwear to the Wallabies. Mortlock won with 54.1% of the vote, followed by Jason Little and Daniel Herbert. Check back tomorrow to find out who was picked for 12th place.


Stock up on the wonderful new ASICS Wallabies RWC stripes, available to buy in store and now online at

The Roar’s Greatest Wallabies Rugby World Cup XV Greatest XV: “I screamed ‘Woo-hah’ but no one heard” – Stirling Mortlock and that brilliant moment of black magic

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