|Full name||Mark Robert Riddell|
9 December 1980 |
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
|Height||182 cm (6 ft 0 in)|
|Weight||109 kg (17 st 2 lb)|
|Source: NRL Stats, Rugby League Project|
Mark Robert Riddell (born 9 December 1980 in Sydney, New South Wales) is an Australian former professional rugby league footballer of the 2000s and 2010s. A City New South Wales representative goal-kicking hooker, he played in Australasia's National Rugby League (NRL) for the St George Illawarra Dragons, Parramatta Eels and Sydney Roosters and in Europe's Super League with the Wigan Warriors. While in his last season at the St George Illawarra club, Riddell was called up for his first representative honour playing for the City team in the annual City vs Country Origin clash and also set the club record for highest-ever point scorer. After moving to the Eels the following year he was again called up to the City side. Riddell moved to Wigan in 2009 and went on to win the 2010 Super League Grand Final with them.
Childhood and early career
Riddell began playing rugby league at the age of four for his local Panania side St Christopher’s in the Canterbury competition where his talent was noticed by several rugby league scouts. Eventually the Sydney Roosters won the race for his signature. He played for several years in the lower grades at the Roosters but was unable to make his way into the first grade, so left the club looking for opportunities elsewhere. Eventually he signed with the St George Illawarra Dragons.
St George Illawarra Dragons
Riddell eventually made the transition into first grade while playing with his new club side at the Dragons, making his debut against local rivals the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks during round one of the 2001 season. Riddell became an immediate fan favourite at his new club after several displays showcasing a good running game particularly out of dummy-half along with good hands and agility for a man of his size and build. During the season he became a regular goal-kicker for the club where he developed a distinctive 'raised arm' motion before he would take the kick. Fans in the crowd would mimic this action. Riddell had an impressive debut season in first grade with the Dragons finishing the season as the club's top scorer with 130 points and cemented his position in the side as hooker.
During his second season with the Dragons Riddell would again have a good season not only impressing club staff and fans with his quickly evolving running game from dummy-half, goal kicking and strength close to the try line ultimately earning himself a call up to the 2002 international Australian Kangaroos 'train-on' squad but was not selected in the final touring side. He finished the season again as the club's top scorer with 129 points to his name even though he was sidelined during several games in the season through suspension after being sent off twice during the regular season.
At the start of the 2003 season, Riddell was criticised amongst some media circles for being slow, out of shape and overweight along with negative talk about discipline problems, however nothing eventuated and he went on to play all twenty-four games of the regular season again finishing as the club's top point scorer with an individual record high of 166 points. In the final round, the injury-ravaged Dragons upset the finals-bound Brisbane Broncos 26-25 with Riddell scoring 18 points of his own, including a last-minute pressure penalty goal 41 metres out from the try line and 10 metres in from touch. This was the two points that won the Dragons the game after having fallen behind through a Darren Lockyer field goal five minutes beforehand.
2004 was again another season of consistent performances for Riddell and several media pundits began speculating on his chances of representing New South Wales in the annual State of Origin, however he was left out of the side but still tasted his first representative experience playing for the City origin side in the annual City vs Country Origin fixture. Salary cap restraints on the club at the conclusion of the season along with several lucrative offers eventuated in a move from the Dragons. Riddell signed with the Parramatta Eels for the 2005 season.
He left the Dragons as the club's highest ever point scorer.
Riddell began the 2005 NRL season with the Eels in his regular role of hooker and becoming a vital part of the Parramatta Eels offensive tactics for the season often crossing the try line with his strength and elusiveness from dummy half. He had his worst season in regards to point scoring after having to share the goal kicking duties with team mate Luke Burt, finishing the season with only 50 points but ultimately helping his side to the minor premiership.
On 17 May 2006, Riddell was dropped from the Eels first grade side and fined a total of $5,000 for failing to show up to a recovery session on a Monday morning following a regular season fixture, he later admitted the reason he had failed to show up to the session was because he was intoxicated. His axing, along with that of Tim Smith's, was the first piece of action taken by Jason Taylor who just moments earlier was appointed caretaker coach following long-serving coach Brian Smith's dismissal.
Riddell stayed with at Parramatta through the 2008 season, playing a total of 86 games for the Eels.
Riddell played for Wigan for two years of his three-year contract. In 2010, Riddell was part of the Warriors side that won both the League Leaders' Shield and the Grand Final, adding his name to the Grand Final score sheet by successfully kicking a penalty goal.
After the 2010 season, Riddell was released from the last year of his contract so that he could return to Australia to tend to his ill mother.
After his release from Wigan in 2010, Riddell made his return to NRL for the 2011 season, this time with the Sydney Roosters. Riddell was poised to sign with the Wests Tigers, however Tigers coach Tim Sheens made it clear that Riddell was unlikely to get much game time with the first grade side, barring injury, rep duties or suspension of star hooker Robbie Farah. Linking to the Roosters ensured Riddell would reunite with Brian Smith, whom he played under at the Eels for one and a half seasons.
Also in 2011, Riddell was recruited by the Sydney Morning Herald to write a weekly column. It was published for that year only.
Riddell announced his retirement in June 2011.