Brian Phillip Cox
- 388Wallaby Number
The Cox family made a considerable contribution to Australian rugby with Brian Cox and his sons Phillip and Mitchell combining to win a total of 27 Test caps. Brian was an outstanding halfback with a pass that caught the eye due to its speed, length and direction. Light but tough, Cox had the misfortune for his career to coincide with that of the great Cyril Burke, a future inductee into the Wallaby Hall of Fame.
Cox learned his rugby skills at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (‘Shore’) and it was there that he developed his long and accurate pass through arduous practice. In 1947 he joined Manly and, after being described by officials at the club as ‘another Norman Mingay’, immediately found himself in First Grade. So highly was Cox rated that he made his New South Wales debut just a year later, against the 1947/48 Third Wallabies, but then had to bide his time behind Burke for a further three years simply to earn a second NSW cap.
In 1952, Burke was surprisingly overlooked by State selectors and Cox started two of the opening three interstate matches with Queensland. Cox’s good form was then rewarded with a Test debut against Fiji in Sydney. Later that season he toured to New Zealand, retained his position ahead of Burke, and started both internationals. As the incumbent half Cox was firmly in the box seat for the trip to South Africa in 1953 before disaster struck. In an early morning, pre-season training run Cox was trailing his forward pack in uncertain light, trod on a ball and suffered shooting pains in his right ankle. X-rays revealed a complete fracture of the fibula just above the ankle and he was ruled out of the tour.
Cox and Burke then shared the starting jersey for the next three seasons before Cox, as the incumbent halfback, was one of three stunning omissions, alongside incumbent fly half and Wallaby captain Dick Tooth and Burke, for the Fourth Wallabies tour to the U.K. of 1957/58. Des Connor and Victorian John Cocks were selected and Connor went on the play 12 of the next 13 Tests through to the end of 1959.
His playing days finished, Cox served his club in senior administrative positions and became a selector for both Manly and New South Wales. When Manly named its Team of the Century in 2006 Phillip was the halfback, Mitchell the five-eighth and Brian the reserve halfback.
Brian Cox played nine Tests for Australia in a six-year international career.
Cox won his first Test cap at halfback in partnership with Murray Tate in the 1st Test, 15-9 win over Fiji at the S.C.G. That halves pair was retained for the 2nd Test of the Fiji series and the two away Tests on the tour of New Zealand.
Cox picked up his first Test cap in 21 months when chosen for the 2nd Test against Fiji in Sydney however his journey to do so was quite extraordinary. Burke started in both the first NSW v. Fiji and opening Test matches but was then rested for the second State game against the tourists. Cox was picked at halfback only to be sensationally dropped after he missed both training sessions. At the time Cox was stationed at Tea Gardens, north of Newcastle, for his work as a Main Roads Board surveyor and as such it was nigh impossible for him to return home solely for training. Burke was recalled to the side however a second half capitulation from NSW saw Fiji emerge with an unlikely victory. In response the Australian Rugby Union selectors sent out an ‘S.O.S.' for Cox. ‘Announcing the second Test team, the selectors included a plea for anyone on the North Coast knowing Cox's whereabouts to inform him he was included.’ Cox subsequently called his wife to let her know that he had been granted leave to train on Wednesday and Thursday to ensure his place in the Test team.
Burke and Cox were both selected for the tour to New Zealand. Cox started the 1st Test 8-16 loss at Athletic Park in combination with John Solomon before he was ruled out of the second international due to injury. Burke took his place and retained it for the final Test at Eden Park.
Cox earned a single cap in the 2nd Test, 0-9 loss to South Africa in Brisbane. Burke had paired with debutant Ross Sheil in the opening international however Sheil dislocated his shoulder and was unavailable for the return match. In addition both Dick Tooth and Arthur Summons were also on the injured list. As a consequence, and in what was nonetheless a mystifying selection decision, Burke was shifted to fly half alongside Cox for the second Test.
Cox and Dick Tooth were the halves combination for both home Test losses to New Zealand.