Commitment paying off for hard-nosed Cottrell

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Wallaby squad backrower Angus Cottrell doesn’t bear many obvious similarities with Wallabies playmaker Kurtley Beale.

One is a hard-edge forward with short back-and-sides, and the other is a dancing playmaker who, until recently, was rocking a "Cliffy Lyons mullet".

But long-time teammate Heath Tessmann believes Cottrell and Beale have one surprising - but crucial - thing in common.

The pair share an instinct for rugby, Tessmann reckons. Beale shows it with attacking flair and Cottrell shows it with smart defence and relentless work.

“When I first met him he was a young backrower learning his craft and he was one of those guys, just a natural rugby player,” he said.

“It’s tough to compare him but it’s a bit like Kurtley -  the more Kurtley is let off to do his own thing, the better he is.

“Angus, he reads the game very well, you watch him (and think) what’s he doing with our structure, what’s he doing with our shape, because he just reads the game so well.”

Cottrell's call-up to the Wallabies squad last week brought a smile to Tessman's face, and to all those who'd played with the tough-as-guts 28-year-old.

At the start of 2018, Cottrell didn't even have a Super Rugby contract; one of those respected workers from the Western Force who found backrow rosters at other franchises already full.

Instead of looking overseas, Cottrell accepted an invitation to train - unpaid - with the Rebels in preseason in the hope he would earn a squad spot.

A player who'd been on the verge of a Wallabies call-up in 2016, injuries had pushed Cottrell down the pecking order and nearing 30, time seemed against him to scale the Test mountain.

But Cottrell forced his way into the Rebels squad and with the sort of aggression wanted by Dave Wessels, he stamped himself as one of the side’s most consistent players in 2018.

He turned in a typically combative performance against the Wallabies for the Super Rugby selection side in the Leichhardt Oval trial, and when Wallabies blindside Lukhan Tui withdrew from the squad after the death of his stepfather and Pete Samu was ruled out with injury, Cottrell's hard work paid off.

Tessmann said Cottrell's squad inclusion was a reward for his grit.

“It’s a testament to his character and the belief he has in himself,” Tessmann said.

“You need to have that strong fortitude after coming off a few injuries and basically not being given any promises but saying he can try and hold a bag and (be there if) something happens.

“Knowing him he wouldn’t give up on the Wallabies dream.

“It would’ve been an easier option for him to have packed up, especially after the injuries, look to make a bit of money in the back end of his career.

“(His squad inclusion) is a testament to him and wanting to prove himself and tough it out.”

At 28, Cottrell would be one of the older Wallaby debutants should he get on in the two tour Tests but Rebels coach Dave Wessels said that didn’t mean Cottrell couldn’t make an impact.

Wessels likened Cottrell to former Springboks captain Gary Teichmann, who debuted at 28 and went on to become South Africa’s most successful Test captain.

“I think he’s really tough Gussy - both mentally and physically,” he said.

“He’s able to push himself to uncomfortable places consistently and I think that makes him really valuable to any team.

“I had a conversation a few weeks ago about Gary Teichmann who became the most successful Springboks captain in the professional era and Gary made his springboks debut at 28.

“Some players develop later in their career, so hopefully this is the opportunity for Gussy and he can go on to have a long Wallabies career.”

Angus Cottrell's grandfather captained the Wallabies. Photo: SuppliedCottrell has the bloodlines of a Wallaby, being the grandson of former Test captain Neville "Notchy" Cottrell.

He missed selection to play against the Springboks but Wessels has no doubt Cottrell has made his presence felt at Wallabies training already.

Though quietly-spoken around the team, Cottrell's physicality is something his teammates feed off on the field, Wessels said.

“Gussy’s always been incredibly hard working - he’s quite a quiet, humble guy so he’s a very easy guy to have around the group,” he said.

“He showed some tough characteristics, he’s a team player and he’s been like that ever since I’ve known him.” 

Australia takes on South Africa In Port Elizabeth on Saturday September 29, kicking off on Sunday at 1:05am AEST, LIVE on FOXSPORTS.