Neville Vincent Cottrell
- 360Wallaby Number
Nev ‘Notchy’ Cottrell was one of Australia’s finest post-War forwards. Widely regarded as one of the first all-round hookers to represent his country Cottrell combined skilful scrummaging with both splendid work in the tight play and a dogged, bustling defensive style. He was also the first in a long line of decorated hookers to captain the Wallabies although it has long been argued that his mentor, the Hall-of Famer Eddie Bonis, would also have been worthy of that honour. After he graduated from St Laurence’s College in Brisbane, Cottrell and ‘Tiny’ Betts started the West End rugby team in the ‘B’ grade competition.
It was at West End that Bonis came across Cottrell and convinced him to join YMCA as an apprentice to the master. In 1945 Cottrell made his first grade debut for YMCA against University before he went into the Air Force. Two years later, aged just 20, Cottrell played his first game for Queensland, the first of 32 he played for his state, against the touring New Zealand side. Unfortunately when it came to selecting the Third Wallabies to the British Isles, Cottrell was considered too young so Ken Kearney and Wal Dawson were given the nod. Australia didn’t play a domestic international in 1948 so by the time that the Maori arrived the following season Cottrell had established himself as the No.1 hooker in the land and justifiably made his Test debut in the opening international Sydney.
He went on to play a key role on the subsequent tour to New Zealand when the Wallabies claimed the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 1934. The following year Trevor Allan failed to overcome a thigh injury and Cottrell became the 35th Wallaby captain when he led the side in the home Test series against the might of the British Lions. Cottrell played 14 consecutive Tests from his debut against the Maori before injury struck when he injured his knee playing for Brisbane in the inter-city match against Toowoomba. He was advised that the damage to his cartilage would probably recover after a fortnight's treatment. Having not played for a month Cottrell, against his team manager's advice, returned to play NSW. He aggravated the injury and as a result was ruled unfit to play in the trials for a spot on the tour to South Africa. As a consequence Cottrell announced his retirement from football aged just 24. ‘Notchy’ Cottrell played 14 Tests for Australia, two as captain, in a four-year international career.
Cottrell won his first Test cap propped by Jack Baxter and Eric Davis in the 3-12 loss to Maori at the S.C.G. That same front row started the 2nd Test, 8-8 draw in Brisbane before Eric Tweedale returned in place of Davis for the 3rd Test, 18-3 victory in Sydney. Cottrell, Baxter and Bevan Wilson played in both Test victories away to New Zealand.
Cottrell captained Australia in the two home losses against the British Lions.
Cottrell started all three home Tests against New Zealand with a different set of props in each match. Nick Shehadie and Baxter started the 1st Test, ‘Tiny’ Betts and Baxter the second, and Betts and Shehadie the third in Brisbane.
Bob Davidson and ‘Lou’ Hatherell joined Cottrell in the front row for the two Test home series against Fiji. Hatherell was unavailable for the subsequent tour to New Zealand due to his study commitments and as a result Baxter came in alongside Cottrell and Davidson for both Tests of what was a drawn series.