Obituary: Gordon Cottier – An inspirational Cumbrian

GORDON COTTIER (October 24, 1949 – November 7, 2023)

FEW players who have worn the chocolate, blue and gold of Whitehaven have proved as versatile – or resilient – as Gordon Cottier.

For the local lad, who was once told to retire because of a heart scare but returned after two seasons out of the game and played for six more, made 30 appearances for his hometown club as a centre, 45 at blind side prop, 23 at open side, 137 as a second row, 84 at loose-forward and 21 from the bench.

As well as those 340 games (with 36 tries, two goals and two field-goals) between 1967-68 and 1984-85 (his seasons on the sidelines were 1978-79 and 1979-80), Cottier, who has died aged 74, played five times on loan at Barrow (in 1972-73) and 15 in two spells at Workington Town – six on loan in 1983-84, then nine (with two tries) when he finished his career at Derwent Park in 1985-86.

He was also capped six times by Cumbria (he scored one try), facing Australia at Whitehaven in 1973 (the Kangaroos won 28-2) and playing his part in a County Championship title triumph in 1981, when Lancashire were beaten 27-15 at Wigan and Yorkshire 20-10 at Whitehaven.

Cottier was signed by Whitehaven from nearby rugby union club Moresby and made a try-scoring debut at centre in a 10-10 draw at Blackpool Borough in February 1968.

The club finished rock-bottom of the then one-division league in 1968-69, and second-bottom in 1970-71.

But in 1972-73, with Cottier prominent, they proved strong enough to claim 15th place, one above Wigan, and so claim a spot in the new First Division.

Whitehaven lasted just the one campaign among the elite, although they did reach the last four of that season’s Player’s No6 Trophy, seeing off amateurs Lock Lane (32-6), Doncaster (14-4) and Warrington (5-0), all at the Recreation Ground, before leading through Cottier’s try in their home semi-final against Bradford Northern, who went on to win 18-6, then beat Widnes in the final.

He missed only two games over the next three seasons, taking his club appearance tally to 233. So it came as both a surprise and a major blow when doctors advised him to hang up his boots due to concerns over a heart condition.

He was given the green light to return for the 1980-81 season – and helped Whitehaven win promotion back to the top flight alongside York, Wigan and Fulham, who were in their first season.

Again Cottier and Co suffered an immediate relegation, but again they won promotion from fourth in Division Two (this time behind Fulham, Wakefield Trinity and Salford) in 1982-83, only for the yo-yoing to continue with another fall through the trapdoor twelve months later, when, through his loan stint, he played a part in Workington’s promotion alongside Barrow, Hunslet and Halifax (Town were second).

His final professional game was in Workington’s 32-20 Second Division defeat at Cumbria’s then-fourth club Carlisle in March 1986.

As well as proving a popular pub landlord, Cottier later both played and refereed in the Cumberland Amateur League and coached Whitehaven and Cumbria in 1992-93 and later community clubs Hensingham and Wath Brow Hornets, where he was also steward and remained a committed supporter.

“Known affectionately as ‘boss’, Gordon was a familiar face on the sidelines at matches, and a source of inspiration for the current generation of players,” said Hornets in a statement.