2010 Hall of Fame Inductee – Barry Cook
Recruited From : Milawa
Joined or First Played for Rovers : 1974
Last Played for Rovers : 1984
Club Honors:Best 1st Year Player : 1974
Most Consistent : 1976
3rd Best & Fairest : 1983
Premierships : 1974,1975,1977,1978,1979
Grand Finals : 1976,1980
Total Games Played : 215
Total Goals Kicked : 22
Other Honors:Milawa Best & Fairest : 1972
Premiership with Milawa : 1985
Milawa : 99 Games
Ovens and King Representative
Football Coaches have to deal with a myriad of contrasting personalities – larrikins, introverts, hypochondriacs, the easily led, the moody. They are just a phone call away from a brooding player who has been dropped or an injured star who needs to be replaced. Thankfully to balance this potpourri of humanity you have the phlegmatic types who almost coach themselves. Barrie Robert Cook was one such player. Recruited to rovers in 1974, Barrie had already served a decent apprenticeship in senior football, despite his tender years. The Cooks were living in Milawa and having been invited to fill up the numbers in the Reserves, the lad soon found himself a permanent fixture in the Demons senior team. Being pitted against players sometimes twice his age and showing him no favours was ideal or the slightly built winger. Wangaratta coach Geoff Rosenow was, at the time applying a fair bit of pressure on Cook to have a run with the Pies. Fortuitously, Rovers ruckman Graham Booth was going with Barrie’s sister Jan and dissuaded him from making such a hasty decision. Instead he coaxed Barrie into joining him at the Hawks. They say timing is everything in sport and Cooky would agree that his arrival at the City Oval could not have been better judged. He played in a Grand Final in each of his first seven years and found himself part of the most successful era in the club’s history. In his first couple of years with the Rovers he was studying to be a teacher and travelled home from Melbourne to play. The weekly grind sometimes takes its toll. One player’s routine involved getting home at 9pm Friday night, studying for 3 hours, going for a run at midnight, and then rising mid-morning to prepare for the game. Barrie didn’t punish himself to that extent but still, it wasn’t easy. One of the secrets to the Rovers success in the seventies was the quality of their wingers. They stole a march on other clubs who tended to hide “soft” players on the wings. But in Peter Booth, Eric Cornelius, Leigh Hartwig and Barrie Cook, the Hawks had ultra-competitive, skilful and sure ball-handlers who were a vital part of the game plan. Cook and Hartwig were tallish and had hands like glue. The kick-outs would often be directed to them, as they would rarely be beaten in one-out making duels. Cooke gave the impression of being slowish, but his was a long, loping running style which drew comparison to Brownlow Medallist Keith Creig. They way he could contort his body at all angles to take marks earned him the nickname of “Leaner”. His unflappable make-up was suited perfectly to the big occasion and a glance through the statistics illustrates what a consistent kick-winner he was in the 31 finals in which he was involved.
He played a significant role in the 1974, ’75, ’77, ’78, and ’79 premierships and was probably the Rovers best player in the gruelling finals campaign of 1976, which ended in heartbreak when Wangaratta ran away from the Hawks. In that match, Cook’s battle with the Magpies great Des Steele on the wing provided one of the highlights of the day.
He generally flew under the radar of the broader football public, as there was a number of more prominent players attracting publicity. Despite the Rovers rating the Cook-Hartwig wing pairing the best in the competition, Barrie failed to come under consideration for the O&M guernsey.
Season 1981 provided him with a challenge. An average 1980 prompted the experts to suggest that he may have lost the necessary edge to hold sway on the wing. He was tested at full back, centre half back and then familiarised himself with the back flank. His last five seasons made him a more versatile player, although he didn’t like to be reined in too deeply in defence. Personally 1983 proved to be one of Cook’s Most successful seasons. He was thrown around the ground quite a lot and his consistent form saw him poll third in the best and fairest. At the conclusion of the 1984 season, Barrie called it a day with the Hawks. He left with little fuss. He decided to finish his career with one final season at Milawa. It was crowned a Grand Final appearance in his 99th Game with the Demons. In a big week for Cook, his second son, Martin arrived on the Wednesday and he starred with 22 kicks and 11 marks in a convincing premiership win over Bright three days later.
Barrie then returned to the Rovers to lend support off the field in a variety of capacities. His skills as a handyman and painter, in particular, have been used to good effect and he has been a valuable member of the Past Players and Officials Association in his usual low key manner. Clubmen of the calibre of Barrie Cook are priceless within the Wangaratta Rovers Football Club.