Far North Coast Rugby Union referee Graham (Cookie) Cook (far left) watching Casuarina halfback, Sam Harrison, during last week’s game against Lismore. After the match Cook was presented with a plaque to commemorate officiating at 700 games.
Far North Coast Rugby Union referee Graham (Cookie) Cook (far left) watching Casuarina halfback, Sam Harrison, during last week’s game against Lismore. After the match Cook was presented with a plaque to commemorate officiating at 700 games.

700 games with ‘the best seat in the house’

AFTER 31 years and 700 grade games of blowing the whistle, there’s not much that rugby union referee Graham Cook hasn’t seen or heard before.

But last weekend Cook was blindsided when, at the conclusion of the game where Casuarina Beach defeated Lismore 61-7, all the players formed a guard of honour and he was clapped off the field by teams, officials and spectators.

Casuarina Rugby Club president Brian Laybutt then presented Cook with a plaque commemorating officiating at 700 games.

“This was outstanding, I was really taken by surprise,” Cook said.

“I love being a referee, you get the best seat in the house, you are involved in the vibe and atmosphere and I love it.”

Laybutt said ‘Cookie’ had earned the genuine respect and admiration of the Northern NSW rugby union community.

“Cookie is a fantastic ambassador for rugby union referees and highly respected by everyone in the game,” Laybutt said.

“Cookie has been a stalwart of Far North Coast Rugby Union Referees Association, and it is important that his contribution is recognised (as) he’s highly regarded within the rugby fraternity and after all these years he is still regarded as one of the best referees in the zone.”

Cook said those moments after the game took his breath away.

“This is what has motivated me since I started in 1989,” he said.

“I encourage anyone who’s played to consider being a referee, the camaraderie of the players and colleagues is wonderful.”

Cook joked that unlike players, referees can have a long career, “as the chance of injury is very low”.

An accountant in his day job, there’s no doubt Cook lives for his weekend role.

He said the good times definitely outweighed any tough moments.

“There’s a negative downside at times but you look at the good times and the fun, the players and spectators,” he said.

“Ever since I started off playing union in New Zealand to when I started refereeing here aged 26, I’ve had a fantastic time.

“I’m very lucky.”