Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : VFL            Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

 

 

 

THE MAN THEY CALLED 'COOKIE'

Next month Fred Cook will be named as Port Melbourne’s full forward in its team of the century. Judged by many as the greatest VFA/VFL player ever, Cook kicked a record 1238 goals in 258 games as well as winning a best and fairest and six premierships in a golden reign for Port Melbourne.

It is a shame that many people will not remember Cook as the dominating, crowd- pleasing full forward of the 70’s and 80’s. His record has been tarnished by a drug habit, which led to jail sentences and caused many failed relationships.

Cook was not the man I had expected to meet. A fit and well-dressed man, he incited excitement in the conversation from the outset. Everyone and everything was mentioned as he jumped from story to story. Numerous media and sports stars were bandied around as well as politicians, gangsters and intellects. It seemed Cook had made contact with the famous as well as the infamous.

Surprisingly, Cook plays down his football achievements.

“I’m not the best player ever. Frank Johnston was; please say that. I was only the end result of the team in front of me. Gee, we were a good side,” Cook says humbly.

An admirable personality trait of Cook’s is how glowingly he speaks of his friends and former team-mates. Ian Owen, Bill Swan, Graeme Anderson, David Holt, Paul Goss and Jim Cristou were some of many fellow players he talks about in depth. Cook knew his team so well that he believes it didn’t matter how good his opposition fullback was. He would kick goals because of the dominance of his fellow Port players.

VFA football was at its peak when Cook played. Huge crowds would flock to watch genuinely tough and physical men compete as if their lives depended on the result. Cook believes it was the unexpectedness of the VFA that the crowds loved.

“The colour has gone from the game. When I played there would be an explosion, whether it be a bit of biff on the field or whether it was in the crowd. The footy today is sanitized, they’re all clones of each other. The unexpected explosions just aren’t there anymore, which is what the crowd loved”.

Since the amalgamation of VFA/VFL clubs with AFL clubs, many VFL supporters believe their club’s history is being forgotten and they are being taken over by their aligned AFL club. With clubs often fielding in excess of 14 AFL listed players and the VFL competition commonly being referred to as “the twos,” it is hard for VFL supporters of the previous generation to wholeheartedly support their team.

It is obvious Cook is not overjoyed about the current situation of Port Melbourne and the VFL. For the first time in the interview he pauses and thinks before he speaks.

“I feel sick saying this but they (Port Melbourne and other VFL clubs) have lost their cultural identity. VFA used to be pretend war. It was cultural. It was parochial. There was elation when we won and sorrow when we lost. Every weekend we went to war with Preston, or Coburg or Williamstown”.

Cook finished his career with Port Melbourne in 1984 and life was travelling well. He made a lot of money through the Station Hotel in Port Melbourne, and was appearing on television, radio, and at many sportsmen’s nights. Well known underworld figure, Dennis Allen, used to drink at Cook’s pub. One night when Cook was suffering from a cold, Allan put speed into his drink. It cleared up Cook’s cold and he had a burst of energy.

“I thought if I take twice as much I’ll feel twice as good and here I am today. Drugs solved all my problems for about 12 hours. When I had failed marriages and relationships, I’d go off with the fairies”.

Although he has been off drugs for four years the scars still show.

“I didn’t cry at my mother’s funeral, I was full of drugs. I’m dealing with my mum’s death 15 years later, slowly”.

Through his football career Cook was able to beat opponents when he played with injuries because of his mental toughness. Mental toughness is a common feature in many great sportspeople. With drugs, however, Cook wasn’t strong enough to distance himself. He lost many of his so-called friends from his football and media days when the drug abuse started to take its toll. He looks disappointed with himself when he talks about the friends he let down.

“My friends were always there when I needed them. The other 500,000 acquaintances I don’t give a fuck”.

Cook would still use drugs today if he did not have to suffer the consequences.

“I love speed, I love amphetamines. I’d still do it if I didn’t have to pay for it, if I wouldn’t get in any trouble with the police and I can live a peaceful co-existence with the rest of the community and family and friends and make rational decisions. I did five months of rehab and I know they don’t all go together”.

While he doesn’t say it there is no doubt Cook feels as though he has been a poor father and husband. He now has a good relationship with his three youngest children and talks about them at every opportunity. It is obvious that Cook is trying to make up for lost time.

“I was stupid I couldn’t realise that I was hurting people. Telling them I loved them and was going to change. Ahh. It was no good”.

By Nathan Ryan

 

 

 

 

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
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