Otto Ernest Nothling

  • 19Caps
  • 170Wallaby Number
Date Of BirthAugust 1, 1900
Place of BirthTeutoburg (Witta), near Maleny, QLD
Other ClubGlebe-Balmain
SchoolBrisbane Grammar School
Debut ClubUniversity (Sydney)
Debut Test Match1921 Wallabies v South Africa, 1st Test Sydney
Final Test Match1924 Wallabies v New Zealand, 3rd Test Sydney
DiedSeptember 26, 1965


Otto Nothling was born in Maleny, Queensland, and went to Brisbane Grammar School. Nothling was the youngest of eight children, all born in Queensland, of German parents who fled to Australia because of the Franco-Prussian War. Keith Willey wrote in The First Hundred Years: The Story of Brisbane Grammar School 1868-1968: ”No story of sport in Mr Bousfield’s era could be told without mentioning Otto Nothling, who was champion athlete [of the School] in 1918 and captain of the football team. In the same year he topped the school batting average in cricket and he was an early G.P.S. shot putt [sic] champion. After leaving school he played twelve matches in Sheffield Shield cricket.” He was a right-hand batman and a right-arm fast-medium bowler. His first class debut was in 1922-23, and he played in 21 matches, scoring 882 runs at a 24.50 average, his highest score being 121.

He snared 36 wickets at 41.06, his best being 5 for 39. His Test career is the stuff of which legends are made. England came to Australia on the 1928-29 Ashes tour, and a young Don Bradman got 18 and 1, and England won. For the first and only time in his career Bradman was dropped, and Otto Nothling came on in his place. He made 8 and was run out for 44, a reasonable enough debut. However England had won the match again, and Bradman was recalled. Nothling eventually retired with just one Test in cricket to his name. While studying medicine at Sydney University he received rugby ‘Blues’, some seven, from 1919 to 1925, a rare performance.

He was on the University’s premiership winning team of 1919, captained by Derby Loudon, and the 1920 team that won back-to-back premierships, and on the premiership winning teams of 1923 and 1924. New Zealand was the first post-war team to tour Australia in 1920, but Jackie Beith occupied the fullback position against them. It was in 1921 that Nothling was selected for his first game, for NSW, against the South African team. Australia lost the match 10 to 25, but Nothling drop-kicked a four-pointer. It was described by Howell, et al , in They Came To Conquer: ”Nothling got the ball and went for the line, then he was hemmed in and kicked a fine drop goal.” It was a confident debut. It is interesting what the first Wallaby captain, Dr Herbert Moran, said about him in Viewless Winds. Moran was the University coach in 1924-25, his book being published in 1939.

He wrote:” For contrast in games I would name a remarkable athlete in my friend Otto Nothling, fast runner, javelin thrower, long jumper, an Australian representative in both cricket and football. Think about a perfectly built athlete of thirteen stone who could run the 100 yards nearly in even time and kick magnificently with either foot. He had every attribute for becoming the greatest footballer in the world, except one : intuition. His unconscious mind never worked. Everything he did was done after slow calculation. From the touch line I used to watch him thinking before he moved. In that long latent period were lost a thousand chances.

He was a very fine player, but a man of poor physique, like his contemporary, W. Sheehan, who could run rings around him. Sheehan did a brilliant thing and thought about it – afterwards.” Anyhow, Nothling played in the second, third and fourth matches against the Springboks. He was not in awe of the mighty ‘Boks, and handled himself well in these games. In 1921 he was on the NSW team to New Zealand, the only fullback on tour. He was 20 and weighed 12 stone 10 pounds, heavier than any other NSW back, and was a mere 5 foot 11 inches. Nothling demonstrated his durability by playing in all ten matches, the only one to do so, playing in the centre in the fourth match. The role of a fullback in those days was to act as the last line of defence, and would rarely if ever come in to the backline. One reference in Chester and McMillan’s The Visitors follows:” [Marlborough] The outstanding player for the visitors was Nothling, whose performance was of a very high standard. His tackling and line kicking were warmly applauded by the impartial crowd...” His games on this tour were North Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Poverty Bay, Wairarapa, Marlborough, Buller, West Coast, New Zealand and Wellington. Chester and McMillan noted that: ”The successes of the tour were Nothling, Wallace, Carr, Wogan, Stanley and Walker among the backs.”

In 1922 the NZ Maori toured, and Nothling played against them in the three NSW games. Only three Australians are dual internationals in cricket and rugby union, Nothling, Johnnie Taylor and Alan Walker, and the first two were in the first game. The Maori won the series 2-1. In the second match, Howell, et al, noted: ”Taylor, Raymond and Otto Nothling were outstanding for the enterprising Waratah backs.” The New Zealand All Blacks also toured in 1922, and once more Nothling was in the three NSW matches against them. He had no peers at this point in time in Australia. Howell, et al ,noted in the first game:” Nothling gave a sound performance at fullback for the home side.”

This time NSW won the series, the game results being 19-26, 14-8 and 8-6 in the decider. It was a rare series win over a New Zealand side. In 1923 the Maori returned, and Nothling once more was fullback in all three games, and the series was won by NSW to the tune of 27-23, 21-16 and 14-12. The NSW tour to New Zealand followed in 1923. Six players did not arrive until after the second match, Nothling, Stanley, Erby, Marriott, Taylor and Sheehan, all of them writing examinations at Sydney University. After Nothling arrived, he played in the following eight games, four as fullback, three times on the wing and one as a centre.

He also led the scoring, with 22 points from five tries, two conversions and one penalty goal. Not only was he durable, he was versatile. Normally only one player toured as the fullback, but John Crakanthorp was also cited in this position. Strangely, he was also from Sydney University. Nothling was still only 23 years of age at this point of time. He played against New Zealand, Southland, New Zealand, Hawkes Bay- Poverty Bay- East Coast, Auckland- North Auckland, Waikato- Thames Valley- Bay of Plenty, New Zealand for the third time, and Wairarapa- Bush. Chester and McMillan had the following comments throughout The Visitors:”{ First Test] Nothling impressed for the visitors...[ Hawkes Bay- Poverty Bay- East Coast] Nothling and Erasmus made the most of any opportunities that came their way...[ Auckland- North Auckland] Nothling and Erasmus were in great form for the visitors, both putting in some brilliant runs down the touchline...[ Waikato- Thames Valley- Bay of Plenty] The visitors were handicapped by the heavy ground but Nothling and Meagher coped well and both played good games...[ New Zealand] Stanley and Nothling showed flashes of brilliance for the visitors...[ Wairarapa- Bush] Nothling was the best of the visiting backs.”

The tour was obviously a great success for Otto Nothling, but the team was extremely disappointing, winning only two of the ten matches. The venture was doomed to failure when ‘Wakka’ Walker, ‘Pup’ Raymond, John Pym, Charlie Fox, Larry Wogan and Johnnie Wallace declared themselves unavailable. The year 1924 marked the 50th Jubilee for the NSWRU, so New Zealand sent a team for a four-match tour. Three of their games were against NSW, and once more Nothling played in each of them. His opponent in these games was the great Maori fullback George Nepia, who is considered a legend of the game to the present day. New South Wales won the first match 20 to 16,but lost the other two 5 to 21 and 8 to 38. This last match marked the end of Nothling’s representative career. His replacement was also from Sydney University, and would be heralded as one of the true marvels of the game, Alec Ross. Though Nothling was only 24 years of age, he transferred to Glebe-Balmain but concentrated on his cricket. He would be 28 when he replaced Bradman for his sole Test. His was an outstanding record. He died in 1965, therefore not in his lifetime would he be classified as a dual international. It was not until 1986 that the ARU decreed that NSW games could be upgraded to Australian status because no rugby was played in Queensland 1919 to 1929. He is therefore credited with 19 Test caps, and 14 non-Test caps. He was a medical doctor by profession.

NOTHLING, OTTO ERNEST (1900-1965), medical practitioner and sportsman, was born on 1 August 1900 at Teutoburg (Witta), near Maleny, Queensland, sixth child of Carl Martin Nothling. a mason from Prussia, and his Queensland-born wife Marie Wilhelmine, nee Tesch. Otto won a scholarship from Woombye State School to Brisbane Grammar School. A ‘public spirited’ boy of ‘very fair ability’, he excelled at cricket, Rugby Union football (captain first XV, 1918) and athletics. He entered St Andrew’s College, University of Sydney (M.B., Ch.M., 1926),where he distinguished himself as an athlete, breaking records in javelin-throwing and shot-putting, and representing the university at cricket and Rugby.

An outstanding Rugby full-back for New South Wales, Nothling played three times against the visiting South Africans (1921), ten times against New Zealand ( touring in 1921 and 1923) and six times against visiting Maori teams...H.M. Moran thought that Nothling ‘ had every attribute for becoming the greatest footballer in the world, except one: intuition.’ On his retirement from rugby in 1924, Nothling concentrated on cricket. He played five times for New South Wales in 1922-25. After returning to Queensland in 1926, he represented the State (1927-29) in twelve Sheffield Shield matches, including three as captain.

In November 1928 he was chosen for both an Australian X1 and a Queensland X1 against A.P.F.Chapman’s touring Marylebone Cricket Club team. Next month he was selected to replace the young (Sir) Donald Bradman, who was dropped to twelfth man, for the Test against England in Sydney. Nothling’s figures of 8 and 44 with the bat, and 0 for 72 off 46 overs of zestful medium pace, were not enough; he was not picked again. In all first –class matches, he scored 882 runs at an average of 24.5 and took 36 wickets at 41 runs apiece. From 1930 Nothling practised medicine at Maryborough, Queensland. In that city on 1 June 1932 at St Paul’s Anglican Church he married Mildred Melville Horsburgh.

Appointed major, Australian Medical Corps, Australian Imperial Force, on 12 July 1940, he sailed for the Middle East in December as second-in-command of the 2nd/3rd Casualty Clearing Station. He served in Greece and on Crete, but poor health forced his return to Australia; his A.I.F. appointment terminated on 2 October 1943 and he resumed his practice at Maryborough. After obtaining a diploma in dermatological medicine (1949) at the University of Sydney, he set up as a specialist in Wickham Terrace, Brisbane. The first skin specialist appointed to the Brisbane Children’s Hospital, he was a council-member of the Dermtaological Association of Australia. Nothling’s many interests included farming.

He served as an alderman (1933-40) of Maryborough City Council, president (1938-39) of the Maryborough and Wide Bay Club, secretary of the local branch of the British Medical Association, vice-president of the Maryborough Golf Club (1936-40) and the Q.R.U. (1960-65) and president (1964-65) of the Queensland Cricket Association. Of splendid physique and 6 ft 3 ins (191 cm) tall, he could run 100 yards in even time in his youth. According to Dr John Beliario, a friend and colleague, he was ‘in some respects a naive, lovable, big overgrown boy, who never grew up.’ Nothling was gregarious and ever cheerful. His most outstanding quality was his loyalty to his friends. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he died of hypertensive heart disease on 26 September 1965 at Chelmer, Brisbane, and was cremated.

Otto Nothling profile
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