Coulter-Nile was born in Perth, Western Australia, on 11 October 1987. He is the eldest of three children, and has two younger sisters. He was educated at Aquinas College. He played in state representative teams from an early age, representing Western Australia at both under-17 and under-19 level. At the 2003–04 National Under-17 Championships, Coulter-Nile took four wickets from five matches, although he scored only 19 runs from his five innings during the tournament. Two seasons later, at the 2005–06 National Under-19 Championships (held in Perth), he took eight wickets at an average of 24.50 from his six matches. In grade cricket, Coulter-Nile made his third-grade for the Fremantle District Cricket Club during the 2003–04 season, aged 16. He made his first-grade debut the following season, and took 18 wickets at an average of 25.72 from his ten first-grade matches. This included figures of 5/56 against Joondalup, his first five-wicket haul in the competition. A member of the Dennis Lillee Fast Bowling Academy, Coulter-Nile was selected to appear for the Australian national under-19 team in three under-19 One Day International (ODI) matches against the Pakistan under-19s in April 2007, at the end of the 2006–07 season. This followed on from a season for Fremantle in which he took 30 wickets, as well as appearing in a single Cricket Australia Cup match for the state second XI team.
In July 2012, Coulter-Nile re-signed with the Perth Scorchers for the 2012–13 Big Bash League season. During the Big Bash League offseason, he also played in the team's three matches in the 2012 Champions League Twenty20. The team's squad for the 2012–13 season differed slightly from the previous season, with Tim Armstrong, Jason Behrendorff, Hilton Cartwright, and Alfonso Thomas replacing Duffield (not contracted), Marsh (injured), and Rimmington (Melbourne Renegades) as members of Perth's bowling attack. With Justin Langer having replaced Lachlan Stevens as coach prior to the start of the season, Coulter-Nile began to be used in a different role. Usually bowling three or four overs, often first change behind Thomas and spinner Michael Beer, he took ten wickets at an average of 27.60 from his ten matches, but also usually played as a top-order batsman. This was not entirely a success, given that he scored only 61 runs from his eight innings. However, in a match against Brisbane at The Gabba in mid-December 2012, Coulter-Nile scored 23 not out from just six balls, including 20 runs from four balls in Dan Christian's final over. With rain necessitating the use of the Duckworth–Lewis method, Perth had been set 51 runs from five overs. Coulter-Nile was named man of the match for his performance, despite having conceded 39 runs from his three overs in Brisbane's innings.
Following on from his form for Western Australia during the 2011–12 season, Coulter-Nile played two first-class matches for Australia A during the team's 2012 tour of England. Although he had been called up for the tour after James Pattinson withdrew due to an abdominal strain, he played a further match for Australia A in November 2012, against the touring South Africans. After good form in all three formats of the game during the 2012–13 season, Coulter-Nile began to be seriously considered to play for Australia. Following on from his nine-wicket Sheffield Shield performance against Queensland in February 2013, two former internationals—Mike Hussey and Shane Warne—both nominated him as a potential debutant during the ODI and T20I series held towards the end of that season. Coulter-Nile was selected to make his international debut in a T20I against the West Indies later that month. On debut, he took 1/36 from four overs while bowling, and scored 16 not out from 11 balls while batting, including two sixes.
In May 2013, Coulter-Nile was named in Australia's 15-man squad for the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, to be held in England and Wales in June 2013. He played no matches during the tournament, but was selected to tour both India and South Africa with Australia A in the middle of the year. This included a one-day tri-series involving Australia A, India A, and South Africa A, in which Coulter-Nile scoring 104 runs and took two three-wicket hauls in four matches. In one match against South Africa A, he scored 62 runs, which included a partnership of 133 runs for the seventh wicket with Shaun Marsh (136*), and helped Australia A win the match by three wickets. Based on this form, Coulter-Nile was selected in Australia's 18-man senior squad for the ODI and Twenty20 International portions of Australia's 2013 tour of England. In late August, he played his second T20I match. With Australia losing by 27 runs, he failed to take wicket, conceding 47 runs from four overs, but scored 13 runs from six balls while batting, including two sixes.