AFLUA life member Don Cooke has taken 44 years to accomplish the feat, last weekend he participated in his 1000th game of AFL football as a player or umpire. Don’s 1000th was memorable in that he played in the back pocket for the Coburg super rules over-47 team on Sunday morning and then went straight to his 1001st game in the afternoon umpiring in the Essendon District Football League (EDFL) juniors, mentoring young umpires along the way.
Don’s effort is even more meritorious when you consider that the 56 year-old has undergone six back operations since 1985 simply to remain active.
Don played 260 games as a junior with St. Marks (now Fawkner Amateurs) and later 5 games with Epping reserves in the Northern Football League as a 40 year-old when they were short of players. When asked to describe himself as a player Don likened himself to Kevin Sheedy as a tenacious back pocket player who still has a case of white line fever. “I am still as competitive as I ever was, I’ve even been red carded for abuse”, confessed Don.
Seven hundred and forty games as an umpire stands the test of time. Football still commands most of his spare time. He coaches umpires in the EDFL and umpires in the juniors to assist young kids coming through the ranks.