Super Rugby


2/6/2017

Vale Terence Neil ‘Tiny’ Betts OAM


The Queensland Rugby Community is mourning the loss of legendary Queensland and Australian prop, Neil ‘Tiny’ Betts.

From his Queensland debut against the Wallabies in 1948 to his final state cap against Sydney in 1956, Neil was the cornerstone of the Queensland scrum. Facing Maori, All Black, Fijian and Springbok packs, as well as southern domestic rivals New South Wales who often boasted a pack of international forwards, Neil provided his home state with a staunch and enduring service.

Born in Brisbane on 13 April 1926, Neil was the youngest of three talented footballing brothers. Jack, Kevin and Neil all attended St. Laurence’s Christian Brothers College in South Brisbane.

After graduating in 1945, Neil had a season with Brothers before joining newly formed West End Rugby Club. There, Neil began a wonderful partnership with hooker Neville ‘Notchy’ Cottrell, under the early guidance of former Queensland and Australian hooker Eddie Bonis who had only recently retired.

Cottrell reflected on his fine front row partnership with Betts: “He was a very tight forward who held the front row together. He and I were just one body. He was as hard as nails. He never said very much but Bettsie always looked after me.”

That same year, Betts made his State debut. Betts recalled the difference in training for Queensland in 1948: “We didn’t have a scrum machine back then, we used to pack against the fence in the Exhibition number 2 ground. I used to get underneath the fence and try to lift it up.” 

Further quality performances for Queensland against New South Wales led to his selection in the Wallaby team to tour New Zealand.

Betts attained the unusual distinction of playing the All Blacks three times in a week – for Queensland in Toowoomba, Brisbane at the Brisbane Cricket Ground and in the third Test match - also at the BCG. In all, he featured against the All Blacks in five of their twelve matches.

In the following year, Neil married Joan Cunningham and bought a house. With these commitments, he had to make himself unavailable for the Wallaby tours of New Zealand in 1952 and South Africa in 1953 and it seemed his international career was over. However, when the Fijians returned to Australia in 1954, he received another opportunity. 

Betts was called in to replace injured Col Forbes who had made such an impact on the Wallabies 1953 tour. The game was one of the roughest Tests and Betts was in the thick of the action with Australia playing a man down after Eddie Stapleton was tackled out of the game just before halftime. In the tight, Betts, Shehadie, Tony Miller and Alan Cameron did a fine job, considering the seven-man pack that had to battle through the last 57 minutes of the match. Fit again, Forbes returned for the second Test in place of Betts.

After nine seasons in the Queensland jersey, Betts confined himself to club Rugby. His brother, Kevin, stood down after 142 first grade games for Souths to coach the side in 1958 with Neil as captain. The team went on to win the premiership. 

“This was the happiest day of my life,” Betts announced. 

“I didn’t think we’d ever win. Playing for Australia was great but it couldn’t beat this win.” 

In all, Neil Betts played seven games for Australia between 1949 and 1954, including three Test matches and forty-three games for Queensland, five as captain. A Souths stalwart, Betts featured in 174 first grade games between 1948 and 1958, coached the club and was president of Souths for 11 years. He became a State selector in 1960 and was a made a life member of the QRU in 1969.

Neil’s tremendous contribution to Rugby in Queensland cannot be overstated. His tenacious scrum work and timeless front-row partnerships with ‘Notchy’ Cottrell and older brother Kevin, as well as his ongoing commitment to Queensland Rugby remain an inspiration for generations of players and administrators. He is sadly missed.

Neil is survived by his wife of 65 years, Joan, and their three children, Cathy, Pam and Anthony.

A funeral will be held on Thursday 9th February, with a Requiem Mass starting at 11:00am at Mary Immaculate Church, 616 Ipswich Road, Annerley. 

Family and friends are invited to gather at Souths Rugby Club after the funeral service to share memories of Tiny. The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations to Souths Rugby Club would be appreciated. For further details please visit www.southsrugby.com

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