TIM COSSOR will be the first to admit he wasn't the most talented ruckman of his era. But what the big man lacked in skill and polish was compensated for with a fierce desire to win each contest and make his opponent earn every disposal. The likeable larrikin caught-up with The Border Mail's BRENT GODDE during the week.
BRENT GODDE: As a teenager you were more interested in horses than playing football?
TIM COSSOR: When I turned 17 I got a job with John Ledger and breaking in horses and didn't start playing football until I was 20.
BG: Did you play school football?
TC: The highlight of my school football was when I was rucking one day and Robbie West was my rover in the under-15s. John McEvoy was coach and I don't know how but I won the Olllie's Trolley award for best on ground. The best thing about West being rover is you would hit the ball, he would get it no matter where you tapped it.
BG: You played your first senior match with Kiewa-Sandy Creek under coach Craig 'Crackers' Cleary?
TC: We lived on a farm near Kiewa and my brother Lachie was playing so it was an easy choice.
BG: Mitta United enforcer Hughie Giltrap was one of your first opponents in the Tallangatta league?
TC: 'Crackers' mustn't have liked me much because he gave me the tall order of playing on Hughie.
BG: Did you have a few sleepless nights in the lead-up to the match?
TC: Not really because I didn't know who Hughie was beforehand but it didn't take me long to find out.
BG: How did you perform against the Mitta United legend?
TC: I had a good first-half and he would have only got a handful of touches.
BG: What about the second-half?
TC: Just before half-time I gave him a bit of a hip and shoulder and I wouldn't say I cleaned him up but I did knock him over. Then being young and dumb back then I gave him a bit of mouthful and let him know what I had just done to him. We had a bit of scuffle and I learnt the hard way not to poke the bear and upset Hughie Giltrap.
BG: What happened at half-time?
TC: Cleary gave me a big rap in front of the group and told the players to follow my example and to have a crack in the second-half. Hearing that, I had my chest pumped out and was feeling good about myself and thought I was invincible.
BG: How did the second-half unfold?
TC: After half-time Hughie came out and kicked five goals on me and I got dragged off him half-way through the last quarter. It was like playing on Jekyll and Hyde and once I stirred him up he went to another level. I told blokes for the rest of my career do not upset Hugie Giltrap.
BG: No doubt a harsh lesson?
TC: I soon learned there were three blokes that you didn't mess around with in the Tallangatta league, Giltrap, Ray Mack and Ross Hillary.
BG: You only played one season at Kiewa before joining Howlong?
TC: Allan Hamilton was at Kiewa and got the coaching job at Howlong and my brother Lachie and I followed him.
BG: How were the Spiders travelling at the time?
TC: It was a long season and we never looked like winning a match all year.
BG: You played on Jindera coach John Waldron that season?
TC: I was playing centre half-back. Anyhow after the season finished he gave me a call to see if I would be interested in joining him at the Bulldogs.
BG: You decided to switch clubs?
TC: I played a couple of seasons at Jindera before Ray Mack recruited Johnny and I to Thurgoona.
BG: You regret joining Thurgoona?
TC: I should have never left Jindera and I was only at Thurgoona for one season. Ray convinced Johnny and I that we were a chance to win a flag if we joined the Bulldogs. We won the pre-season competition and everybody thought we were destined for big things. But we didn't even end up playing finals.
BG: Ray stitched you up at the presentation night?
TC: I could smell a rat when Ray asked me before the presentation night if I had ever won a football award. I said Ray, I never have but I know I never ever want to win the coaches award, I'd rather win nothing. No prizes for guessing who won the coaches award that season.
BG: The following season you return to Jindera under coach Mark West?
TC: I remember 'Westie' stitched me up big time that season in the final round. 'Westie' had tickets in the corporate box at Etihad Stadium for the Essendon versus Western Bulldog which included complimentary food and drinks and asked if I wanted to go with him.
BG: That seems like a generous offer?
TC: The only problem was the match was on a Friday night and we had to play Holbrook the following day.
BG: What did you do?
TC: 'Westie' hatched a plan that we would still get on the drink but we would both have quick bursts in the ruck the next day to help share the load.
BG: How did it unfold?
TC: 'Westie' organised Joel Styles as the designated driver so 'Westie' and I hooked into the beers. The last thing I remember is leaving some nightclub at 3am.
BG: Did you play the next day?
TC: I got to the ground feeling as crook as a mangy dog and started getting changed. I looked over at Westie and he's not getting changed and that's when I can sense the stitch-up coming.
BG: Surely he played?
TC: 'Westie' calls us in for his pre-match address and the first thing he says is 'boys I'm a late withdrawal because I strained my hamstring on Thursday night and I don't want to break down in the last match of the season. But big Coss will ruck for four quarters and lead by example.'
BG: How did you perform?
TC: I had to ruck against Brian Kelly and after a few ruck contests he says to me 'bloody hell Coss what did you get up to last night, you smell like a brewery.' I said 'I've had a big night, is there any chance you can take it easy on me?' I wasn't surprised when he said 'not a chance Coss.'
BG: Did you last the whole match?
TC: I don't know how but I rucked the whole day. I remember I got a lift with 'Westie' and on the way home we had to pull over a few times because I kept getting cramps.
BG: You worked at Sodens as a bouncer during most of your football career?
TC: I used to work to about 3am most Friday and Saturdays and get up at around 10am and then head out to play football.
BG: Did you have a few beers while you were working?
TC: The only time I got pissed before a match was with 'Westie' that time. Believe it or not I took my football seriously and knew I had to do everything right because I lacked ability.
BG: You prided yourself on your aggression and attack on the contest?
TC: Every time I crossed that white line I knew I had to be ferocious at the contest to compensate for the deficiencies in the other parts of my game.
BG: You would try to intimidate your opponent?
TC: I would say I was a fairly lippy player and tried to throw my weight around but I thought I was fair and wasn't a dirty player who got reported every second week. It was all a bit of an act really and I used to think if I can I intimidate my opponent, I would have an edge.
BG: You mistakenly thought North Albury's Tony Trevaskis belted you one day?
TC: When I was at Myrtleford in the reserves, I had to ruck against Trevaskis who must have been coming back from injury. Anyhow one centre bounce I copped this whack on the chin and I thought he belted me. I shook my head as I was getting off the ground and yelled out 'I'm going to get you, you bastard.' Matty Graham runs in and says 'settle down Coss, he didn't belt you, that was his knee.'
BG: You didn't mind sledging your opponent?
TC: One of my best sledges was against the Lockhart ruckman who I have forgotten his name. Anyhow he was an alibino and looked like he hadn't seen a ray of sunshine in a decade. A bit of a scuffle broke out in the second quarter and he grabbed me by the jumper and said 'you are nothing but an asshole Cossor.' I looked at him and said 'I didn't realise polar bears could speak.'
BG: How did that go down?
TC: Well I found out polar bears could not only talk but they could fight as well. He gave me one on the beak and split me fairly bad and I had to go off because it wouldn't stop bleeding.
BG: Were you fuming?
TC: Not really, Laurie Moretti and a few of the guys on the bench asked me what I said for the Lockhart ruckman to belt me, they were in stitches when I told them. I wasn't one to hold grudges and what happens on the field, stays on the field. I had a beer with him after the match.
BG: You also sledged Culcairn ruckmen Brad 'Poaches' Smith for wearing shin guards?
TC: Poaches was the first ruckman I played against that wore shin guards. I just looked at him and said 'you're kidding mate, we are not playing cricket.'
BG: That's one of the things you enjoyed most about bush football?
TC: I remember playing against Walbundrie who had big Allan Thomas and his brother Steve running around and they wouldn't hesitate to belt you. But after the match you would have a beer and a bit of a laugh and move on.
BG: Did you ever get cleaned up during your career?
TC: Ross Hillary cleaned me up one day when he was playing for Yackandandah and I was at Thurgoona. It was a big hit and knocked the wind out of my sails. But I had been throwing my weight around and will be the first to admit I deserved it.
BG: Did you seek revenge?
TC: Not really because I deserved it. I remember quite a few years later I was playing in my band and Ross was at the gig and we got chatting. 'I said do you remember when you cleaned me up at Yackandandah? Well every time I laugh I can still feel my ribs are sore, you got me that good.' That's what footy was like back then, you live by the sword, you die by the sword.
BG: You found it strange that at Walla the opposition change rooms were only separated by a curtain?
TC: Johnny Waldron was coaching Walla one day when I was at Jindera and I could him giving the players their pre-match address. Johnny was giving a rousing speech and I thought I was listening to Ted Whitten. I had watched the movie Tombstone the night before so when Johnny finished talking I yelled out through the curtain 'Hey Johnny, it's Coss here, You tell 'em I'm coming... and hell's coming with me, you hear?' Everyone just cracked up laughing.
BG: During your time at Sodens, Peter Smith was the publican. It's fair to say that big Pete is an entertainer?
TC: I remember one year when Albury won the flag in the 1990s they all turned up to Sodens on the Monday at about 11am. There was 'Micki' Buchanan, Corey Whittaker and all the players and the hangers on and there would have been more than 50 people. Most publicans would panic about having a football club on Mad Monday but big Pete sensed an opportunity.
BG: So Pete was happy to let them stay.
TC: Pete called me into his office and said 'let's make some money today. I want you to look after these Albury blokes and make sure you get every cent you can out of them.'
BG: So there was no trouble?
TC: It got to about 5.30pm and most of the boys were pretty full and had slowed down drinking. Then I heard Pete call a heap of cabs and announce to all the Albury players that there are cabs on their way and they will take you anywhere you want to go. Most of the boys were happy to go home after a few big days. By 6pm the pub was empty and the tills were full and Pete just winked at me and said 'that's how you run a pub son.'
BG: You lived with Gerard Unthank for a while who was a regular at Sodens during the 90s?
TC: Gerard is a bit of an identity around town and anyhow he went to Albury races one day and won $4000. He had a few beers under the belt and got home after the races and slapped the $4000 on the table and said 'Coss go down to Harvey Norman on Monday and buy the best stereo you can find.'
BG: What happened next?
TC: It was about 8pm and I was about to go to work and Gerard said 'give me that $4000 back, I'll get you to drop me off at the trots and I'll win some more money so we can get an even bigger stereo.'
BG: What could go wrong?
TC: At about 11pm I'm out the front of Sodens working and a cab pulls up and Gerard gets out, which I thought was a good sign because he must be still celebrating his win. He comes up to me and says 'Coss, you know how I promised you that new stereo, well we are going to have to share a Walkman.'
BG: Who do you rate as your toughest opponent?
TC: I always struggled against Bill Neyland from Howlong and I don't think I ever won a tap against him. Baxter Oliver was also tough to play against and David Johnston I also rated highly during his time at Walla.
BG: What do you rate the highlight of your career?
TC: When I was 30 I moved to Myrtleford through work and had good intentions of retiring. But I wanted to still be involved with football so I went down to the club to see if they wanted me to run water or help out in any way.
BG: You weren't retired for long and ended up playing in the reserves?
TC: It gets better. I got picked in the seniors one week and made my O&M senior debut as a 30-year-old.
BG: How did you perform?
TC: It's funny, I polled a vote in the Morris medal. I was at the count that night and everyone that was on our table erupted when my name was read out.
BG: Who did you have to ruck against?
TC: David Lucas from Corowa, he was a monster. Before the game Richard Green from Greenfreight thought I wouldn't get a kick so he said he would donate $100 to the club for every possession I got.
BG: How much did he have to donate?
TC: Richard was probably a bit stiff because as I said I got a vote in the Morris medal and it cost him $1600 but it was priceless for me.
BG: You started on the bench but had to go on when Saints ruckmen David Steer got knocked out?
TC: The closer I got to David Lucas the bigger he looked but I still decided to sledge him and said 'look at you big fella, you love your weights, your mum must be proud of you?' Lucas just looked at me and said 'at least I know who my mum is.'
BG: The following year you did all the pre-season under coach Luke Rainer in an attempt to be a regular senior player.
TC: I won the reserves best and fairest the year before so I grew in confidence that I could take the next step.
BG: The late, great Richmond defender and Myrtleford legend Kevin Smith gave you a harsh reality check?
TC: I worked with Kevin and he was also the trainer at Myrtleford. Anyhow we were having smoko and I asked his advice on what I needed to do to get a senior game.
BG: What was his advice?
TC: Kevin put his big hand on my shoulder and said 'son, there is no doubt that you have a crack, but you are not good enough.'
BG: Was that a bitter pill to swallow?
TC: I took it as the biggest compliment of my career. I was over the moon that somebody the ilk of Smith who played for Richmond and was one of Myrtleford's finest ever players said that I have a crack. I didn't worry about the second bit that I wasn't good enough.
BG: You played in the Myrtleford reserves until you were 37.
TC: I broke my arm really bad playing against Wodonga Raiders and had to go straight to the hospital for surgery. The doctor said 'I hope you don't mind but we are going to have to cut the jumper off.' I said 'No problem, chuck my boots in the bin as well because I'm retired.'
BG: You also had a stint as recruiting manager at Myrtleford?
TC: I was terrible at it because blokes wanted sign on fees and more money than what they were worth and it used to do my head in.
BG: You saw Tim Hargreaves get kicked get out of the Globe after the Morris medal count one year?
TC: Timmy must have sunk a beer for every vote he polled because he had a few on board. Anyhow he ordered four bourbons, paid for them and he staggered a bit, so the bouncer grabbed him and kicked him out. I was going to see if he was alright and Paul 'Whale' Nugent grabs me and says 'don't go anywhere, we've got four free bourbons to drink.'
BG: These days you are the clerk of the course for a lot of the local race clubs?
TC: I love the atmosphere of the races and bumping into people I know and I'll talk to anybody that cares to listen to me.
BG: Are you allowed to talk to the crowd while you are working?
TC: Of course you are. I remember a young lady came up to me at the Albury Cup a few years ago and said 'Geez your horse is hot and sweaty.' I looked at her and said 'Don't worry, you would be too if I had been on top of you for the last two hours.'