EDFL umpire Don Cooke has been recognised for his unwavering contribution over a 50-year career in umpiring with the second annual Greg Sidebottom Memorial Umpire Coach of the Year award at the recent AFL Victoria Community Football Awards.
Named in honour of the late metropolitan and country umpire Greg Sidebottom, Cooke becomes the second person to receive the award which recognises one of the state’s top community umpire coaches.
Cooke started umpiring at 11 years of age in the Northern Districts Football League, and 1002 games later he is now a life member of the AFL Umpires Association, a qualified Advanced Level Umpire coach and, perhaps most importantly, a highly respected member of the Australian Rules football community.
The work he has done for umpires in Victoria is almost unmatched.
Spending time involved in various leagues including the Victorian Football Association/Victorian Football League, Diamond Valley Football League (now the Northern Football Netball League) and most recently the Essendon District Football League, Cooke’s greatest accomplishments have come as an umpire coach.
Within the EDFL, his coaching role has allowed him to work with both senior and junior coaches.
In 2017, Cooke developed a summer clinic for new umpires, which grew in attendance numbers in 2018 and can be expected to continue to grow in years to come.
This year he established the Pathways Program for 12 field umpires – 11 of which went on to umpire senior football – that included a mix of tests, skill sessions, performance feedback and coaching.
In addition to working with senior umpires, Cooke has spent time as a mentor and coach to many local junior umpires, conducting specialised pre-season training for 14 umpires over the past two years.
He also facilitated both the 2018 AFL Victoria State Umpire Coaches’ Conference and acted as a senior field umpire coach for the AFL Victoria representative football program in July.
Cooke has been instrumental in the development of umpires in Victoria for a long period of time, all while helping to create a pathway and platform that will allow future umpires to be successful as well.