Stephen Arthur Geoffrey Cutler
- 630Wallaby Number
Stephen Cutler had a pedigree that was right out of the top drawer. His uncle, the much adored former Governor of NSW, Sir Roden Cutler VC, demonstrated a remarkable resilience and strength of character both as a soldier and later in public office. Fortunately for Australian rugby Sir Roden’s nephew was cast from the same mould. Cutler’s lean frame belied his athleticism and with an intense work ethic he turned himself into much more than just the premier lineout forward in world rugby.
Educated in Sydney’s north at Knox Grammar he made the NSW Schools XV of 1977 but was unfortunate to miss a berth in the famous Invincibles’ Australian Schools squad to Britain and Ireland. He then graduated to colts and later grade with the Gordon Highlanders.
In 1982 he debuted for Sydney and just eight days later ran out for New South Wales in their first game of the season against Waikato. In July, at 22 years of age, he was named in the Wallaby squad to tour New Zealand and when he made his Test debut in Wellington, Cutler became the tallest Test lock in Australian rugby history. Surprisingly coach Bob Dwyer then sacrificed Cutler’s lineout prowess for the stronger scrummaging of another debutant, Parramatta lock Phil Clements, in the final Test of that series.
Amazingly it took a change of national coach in 1984 before Cutler’s true worth was realised. Having not played a Test since his debut, and on the advice of Wallaby teammate `Topo’ Rodriguez, Cutler worked tirelessly in the gym in order to add bulk to his frame. Cutler also focussed on his calf development given he believed to do so would help him sustain effective jumping, especially on softer grounds. When Alan Jones succeeded Dwyer in 1984 he promoted Cutler for the opening Test against New Zealand and it proved to be a masterstroke. Cutler dominated the aerial battle and Australia scored a famous victory.
Paired alongside Steve Williams, Cutler became a hero on the ‘Grand Slam’ tour of Britain and Ireland. His supreme ball-winning ability and new-found power in the scrums were big factors in Australia’s set piece domination in the internationals. He also sparked several crucial tries with a beautifully judged leap to grab a lineout ball, notably Mark Ella’s winning try against Ireland and Tom Lawton’s opening four-pointer against Wales. Ella paid Cutler the ultimate tribute when he said that ‘Cuts was the difference between winning and losing the Grand Slam. No doubt about it. The only difference between the 1981 Wallabies and the 1984 side was the ability to win ball. Steve Cutler’s jumping in the lineouts was that difference.’
The 1986 tour of New Zealand provided another career highlight when Australia became just the fourth team to win a series on New Zealand soil. After making himself unavailable in 1990, Dwyer recalled Cutler for the 1991 Rugby World Cup campaign and he fittingly returned home a World Champion.
Steve Cutler played 40 Tests for Australia in a 10-year international career.
Selected for the Australian Colts three-match tour of New Zealand
Cutler won his first Test cap off the bench when he replaced Duncan Hall - who was forced to leave with field with a fractured bone at the base of his spine from a cynical stray knee / boot - in the 2nd Test, 19-16 victory in Wellington.
Cutler was not selected on the short tour to Fiji but then played in each of the remaining seven Tests in partnership with Steve Williams.
Cutler and Williams played together in all five Wallaby Tests. He scored his first Test try in 2nd test, 43-15 defeat of Canada in Brisbane.
He started the opening two Tests of the year against Italy and then France but missed the series against Argentina after he suffered a back injury. Cutler returned to combine with Bill Campbell during the three Test series victory over New Zealand.
Cutler earned nine Test caps and was selected to his first Rugby World Cup. He had four locking partners throughout the year - Campbell (5), Damien Frawley (2), Ross Reynolds (1) and Troy Coker (1).
Cutler played all eight Wallaby Tests, seven with Frawley and one with Campbell.
Cutler and Campbell combined in the opening four Tests - British Lions (3) and New Zealand before both were unavailable for the end-of-season tour to Canada and France.
In his final season of international rugby Cutler was selected to his second Rugby World Cup where he played in the 9-3, pool game win over Western Samoa in Pontypool.