Arthur Cook served football in many roles. As umpire, umpire trainer, training supervisor and ‘blue coat’ at VFL Park, he was directly involved with the VFL and also trained a number of professional runners with VFL umpire connections.
Born Arthur David Cook on 8 August 1931 in Wonthaggi, he grew up in Richmond. Heavily involved in professional running, he was successful around Victoria, including Stawell events, such as a win in the 1957 Victory Mile, a second place in the same event in 1955 and a third-place in the 1954 Stawell Handicap.
Beginning umpiring with the VFA in 1957, he transferred to the VFL Second Eighteens the following year. His prodigious talent was recognised with the 1959 VFL Reserve Grade Grand Final and promotion to the VFL senior list in 1960.
He debuted at Windy Hill in Round 1, 1960, earning Heritage No. 311, as Essendon downed Hawthorn. Later he completed his first season with appointment to the VFL night series grand final.
The following season was notable for at least two of Arthur’s matches, Richmond being held goalless in Round 16 at the Junction Oval, making for an easier than usual day for he and partner Herbie Kent, and the 1961 VFL Second Semi-final which was his first finals match.
Arthur umpired his first VFL grand final in 1962, and two years later had a ring-side seat, cruising into the behind post, for Neil Compton’s premiership winning snap in 1964. Further grand finals in 1966 and 1967 meant that his last three grand finals were decided by a total of 14 points. They also signalled eight years of excellence and consistency to remain at the very top of the boundary umpire tree. Later in his career, he was also a part of history with his appointment to the first match at VFL Park.
While he accumulated VFL finals, he was also appointed to a five interstate matches between 1962 and 1968 and a further night grand final in 1968.
Retiring following the 1971 season, he had complied an impressive senior record: 178 VFL premiership, 11 VFL night series and 5 interstate matches.
Off the field, Arthur was a member of the VFLUA Executive Committee in 1969-1970 and was awarded VFLUA life membership in 1970.
Once he finished his career on the boundary, Arthur became a VFL umpires trainer for more than a decade, looking after the legs of senior umpires and later donning the iconic blue coat as a well-known steward at VFL Park. He was also VFL Training supervisor at Royal Park in 1973.
Arthur Cook passed away on 17 August 2022, aged 91 – a true servant of the game.
Article written by David Flegg AM (AFLUA historian/statistician)