The race for the Western Force No.7 jersey vacated by David Pocock is on ahead of the Perth franchise’s Super Rugby campaign.
The former Force captain’s departure to the Brumbies have left the fetcher berth up for the taking and the push is on as a host of talented loose forwards aim to claim the starting place.
In addition to regulars like Matt Hodgson, Richard Brown and Ben McCalman, and rising stars Angus Cottrell and Locky McCaffrey, the competition has increased with the arrivals of Chris Alcock from the Waratahs and former Reds and Wallaby star Hugh McMeniman, who returns after a stint in Japan.
Cottrell, who has returned for his second season with the Western Force, says the intensity at training has reflected the players’ desire to wear the No.6, No.7 and No.8 jerseys.
“It’s tough; I couldn’t put a finger on who’s going to be there come Round One against the Rebels,” he said. “Fingers crossed I’ll hopefully get a start but there are new guys like Alcock and Hughy, and then there’s guys that have been here already like Hodgo, Browny, McCaffrey, McCalman.”
While the task of dislodging one of his more experienced team mates may seem daunting to some, Cottrelll says he is better prepared for his follow-up Super Rugby season, after playing in seven matches during 2012.
Plucked from the Wests Bulldogs in the Brisbane club competition to represent the Western Force in their Samoan tour at the end of 2011, Cottrell impressed over the two matches and went on to earn an Extended Playing Squad Contract for 2012.
Having graduated to a full contract for the upcoming season, the 23-year-old says he knows what to expect of himself and the competition the second year round.
“Last year I didn’t really have a [physical] base,” he said. “Last year I came in unfit, probably a bit overweight and not very strong so to have gone through a full year I can really attack this pre-season leading into 2013.
“Coming here last year I didn’t expect to play many games. I came here on the back of a lot of good players and through injury I was lucky enough to get the first five games out.
“I wasn’t expecting to get many games but to get them, I was absolutely over the moon, and to end up getting seven [games] was a pretty good year for me, I was very happy with it.
“In 2013, even though it’s going to be tough with even more competition, I want to get as many games out as I can and build on the performances from 2012.”
Cottrell played a starring role at No.8 for Associates in last year’s Pindan Premier Grade premiership-winning season but is eyeing off his favoured blindside flank role with the Force in 2013 – having started there on four occasions in 2012.
With that preference pitting him against the likes of McMeniman, Brown and McCalman, he is confident that it’s a case of another year older, another year wiser.
“[The main learning from last year has been] probably to work as a team,” he said. “Coming from club football, you did more than just your own role but here if you [just need to] know your role and stick to that and connect with the other fellas. That was probably the main thing that I worked on – doing my part and letting everything else unfold.”
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