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David Cook

David Cook

[Yesterday I drafted up something of a tribute post to Dave Cook, Chairman of AFC Fury, who sadly passed away last Saturday. Given the sensitive nature of the topic, I wanted a second pair of eyes to take a look before I published it. So I sent it to Cordwainer Bull who, after giving it the seal of approval, generously offered to supply a few thoughts of his own to “add as a post-script”. But upon reading the brilliant words Monsieur Bull put together, my effort suddenly seemed a bit pathetic by comparison! So I have made his the main piece, and I’ll add what I was going to say in the comments. – Enzo.]

By Cordwainer Bull

I can’t think of a club administrator in New Zealand who would have experienced the vicissitudes of football as much as Dave Cook.

Chairman Cook, an insurance agent, was the driving force behind Mt Maunganui AFC arising from a core of wharfies and powering their way from the Bay of Plenty second division, via the old northern league fourth division south (champions in 1982) to a Chatham Cup final and northern premier league title in 1986, and on to the national league.

There should also have been a national league title in 1989, but for a missed penalty.

What an incredible feat that was – eight divisions in eight years. In conjunction with his equally distinctive and singular head coach Eddie Edge, Dave took a team from pub football to the cusp of the national league title and Chatham Cup within a decade.  Amazing.

In the mid to late 80s Mt Maunganui were the most exciting show in the country, with Cook, along with his loyal secretary, Gael Dixon, the ones making it happen off the pitch.

Unfortunately for Dave, the Karmic tapestry later equalised, and he also presided over the collapse of the very same club, riven by a financial implosion, and major auditing questions which even prompted TV current affairs reportage.

And it prompted club members to “mount” a challenge to Dave’s 15-year presidency.

Mount reported a loss of $81,000 at their 1997 AGM and the fact such a high profile club was in such trouble – and possibly unable to meet its debts – sent shivers right through New Zealand Soccer.

If the club’s accounts were a shambles, it speaks volumes of Dave’s staunchness to the cause that at the time a term loan of $66,000 was secured by a second mortgage over his own property. And Dave regularly paid club bills out of his own pocket.

But former club junior co-ordinator Dave Clarke stood against Cook, with members of his ticket – dubbed the Dave Clarke Five – successfully challenging for all positions.

It was also a time when Mount’s lease on Links Ave, where Dave had wheeled and dealed for years to build a first class facility, was coming to an end.

Dave later attributed his (and Mount’s) demise to a ropey constitution. “You can’t have a constitution where the equivalent of the tea lady can replace the chairman,” he told me years later.

That’s debateable. But in this respect Dave was always top value as a controversial media pundit. He lobbied furiously for rivals Waikato United to be dumped from the national league following the 1996 season.

Cook of course argued he was looking at it from “a football perspective” not from any advantage his own club might gain from Waikato missing out, and questioned the durability of a proposed amalgamated Waikato-Melville entry .

“A brand new amalgamation is unproven. Nine out of 10 of them fail anyway and you can’t keep shoving stuff under the carpet . . .”

Those words about shoving stuff under the carpet were later to haunt him.

But first, in 1996 Dave also made football headlines as a player. In his early 50s, he started in a number of northern league matches for a Mt Maunganui team which was desperately short of players – and money. Possibly the oldest outfield player to compete at that level.

When Mount duly went belly up, the council handed a wonderful facility over to Tauranga City in 2000, who as a nod to history, changed their name to Tauranga City United.

Not that that ever pacified Dave.

In 2001 he formed and financed Western Bay United (at Maramatanga Park), which competed in the Waikato Sunday Soccer League, and featured his two sons.

The club name was ultimately changed to AFC Fury. Dave set about trying to make history repeat with another surge through the divisions 20 years on.

If Dave is to be remembered by anything in more recent times, it is perhaps the removal of the guest player terminology from our football regulations today.

When Fury were denied promotion to the northern league at the end of the 2013 season, it was because they were adjudged to have transgressed guest player rules.

Dave argued this concept of guest players – introduced in the days of the likes of Mick Channon and Trevor Brooking playing in the old national league – was an anachronism in the modern world where touring students came fruit picking in the Bay of Plenty.

Dave and Fury lost the case. But how many people noticed when “Guest Players” then quietly disappeared from all regulations before the start of the 2015 season?

I had a love-hate relationship with Dave over three decades.

As a journalist I would marvel at his ability as an administrator to defend the indefensible, but also had a grudging admiration for his tenacity and passion for the game.

The great thing was we were not friends in the conventional sense. It meant there was never any need to be polite, or to hold back from criticism, and you could debate purely within the realm of football ideas or ideals.

To his credit, Dave was often sceptical of my motives.

“You bastard, I know you’ll stitch me up,” he barked back in the late 90s when I sought his opinion for a story on the absurdity of Chatham Cup entry rules.

“But I’m going to talk to you anyway, because it’s more important for people to be thinking about these things.”

Vintage Dave. But he was also a mass of contradictions.

When he took the microphone post-match he could be eloquent, charming, funny, or boringly loquacious.

But he always had something for public consumption.

One week at Links Ave after making a speech he took the mike and tried to get everyone in the clubrooms to accompany him singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Painful

The very next week he was busy explaining how the whole notion of after match speeches was unprofessional and should be totally removed from our culture.

Dave had a deep knowledge of the game, its rules and intricacies, and allied with his drive, it made for a powerful football combination.

In later years Dave agitated for the formation of what he called “Citidel” – a network of club chairmen which would serve as a bulwark against the daftness of our football bureaucracy and promote initiatives which would better serve the game.

Unfortunately few others had the energy and drive to match Dave on that front.

Dave was often an easy target for criticism, but he at least had the personality to brush it aside.

He is best remembered as someone who lived out his passions and cut his own track in football.  He was certainly not afraid to have a pop.

Ultimately Dave was a blue skies thinker, an ideas man, and it was always fascinating to hear about his latest fundraising scheme.

These days most club administrators have the personality of a frozen mackrell. That’s understandable, because the job does grind you down, and you become distanced from the actual production of the game.

In an administrative sense, it’s quite possible we may never see a character like Dave Cook again.

[Cordwainer Bull is a former Waikato United programme columnist. His hobbies include chewing straws and watching lantern slides from long ago. His favourite player was Altan Ramadan.]

"Only understand my madness... ...those who share my passion"

“Only understand my madness… …those who share my passion”

Categories: Other Football Topics

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

17 replies

  1. Cookie

    Last weekend I was on my way to an aborted attempt to watch Papatoetoe vs AFC Fury, when I heard that Fury’s founding father David Cook had passed away. I knew he was unwell and battling cancer, but his death still shocked and saddened me.

    I only met David face to face a couple or three times, but we have exchanged many an e-mail!

    I know he was chairman of Mount Maunganui when they were in the National League for many years, but I can’t give you dates of when he took over or when he left. I know he founded AFC Fury with a view to returning Bay of Plenty football to the very top, but I’m not sure of much of the detail. Ashamedly I haven’t had the time this week that I should have devoted to finding these things out.

    But I still feel like I want to write something of a tribute post. I can’t tell you as much about him as many others no doubt can but, for what it’s worth, the below is what I have picked up about David from personal experience.

    He would have to have been one of the most intriguing figures around the game in this country. There are so many urban legends around about the wheelings and dealings of a man widely thought of as New Zealand football’s answer to ‘Arthur Daley’.

    I’ve heard all sorts of stories about where and how he has signed players – some of them probably true and others so fantastic that they can’t possibly be. Or can they?

    My favourite was the tale somebody told me of how he had allegedly obtained some kind of grant funding for “lights” at Links Avenue. Apparently when questions were eventually raised about when these floodlights would be built, it was discovered that a portion of the money had been spent on household lightbulbs, with the rest spent on player payments… Whether the story is true or not, it’s an absolute doozy.

    Most of my interactions with him came during the controversial months following Papakura City’s successful appeal overturning the result of their play-off vs Fury for promotion to the NRFL during the 2013/14 offseason. The issue hinged on interpretations of the ‘Guest Player’ regulations in the competition rules, under which Fury had signed someone who was subsequently declared ineligible.

    David was adamant that his club had done nothing wrong, and at one point I was getting upwards of ten e-mails a day on the subject. I think he was expecting me to write some kind of expose on what he saw as a bad system. Eventually I convinced him to put his thoughts into a guest post (because the thought of writing it myself made my head hurt), which he did.

    Then came the comments! With a comment count of 55, the vast majority of them about Guest Players, he’s currently the most prolific commenter on this blog of all time – a record he will probably hold for the foreseeable future!

    Some people remarked at the time that they felt decisions were motivated by the powers that be in the NRFL not wanting David ‘on their plate’ and that, by overturning the playoff result, they hoped he would go back to being ‘WaiBOP’s problem’ and disappear from their voicemail forever…

    If that was true, they seriously underestimated the man, because Fury simply went back to the WaiBOP Premiership, won it again, and got themselves promoted without need of a playoff in 2014.

    It’s possible to read some or all of the above and think of ‘Cookie’ as some kind of menace to the game, and there’s no doubt that a lot of people felt that way. But even if he was a terrible villain – football is all about heroes and villains. You need both. David Cook was a real character who enriched the fabric of our game.

    At the second play-off leg vs Papakura, I was rather taken with a Fury banner that hung by the goal at the North end of Bruce Pullman Park. It said “Only understand my madness… …those who share my passion”.

    And that’s the key. He was, above all, a passionate, ambitious, football person who was prepared to put his money where his mouth was by pumping time, energy and money into the game – and we really can’t afford to lose any more of those!

    Rest in Peace, David.

  2. Two great posts summing up David, I had a couple of “run ins” with him with him early on in my time as Chairman at Fencibles over transfers from Fury for a number of players. David effectively passed his immigration issues with a couple of Chilean players on to me to solve….and pay for. The clever and experienced old bugger ran rings around me ! Despite this I, had enormous respect for his passion and drive for the game. And I subsequently had numerous conversations with him (yes by email !) about all things football, he always had an angle that was different and thought provoking, yes truly a blue sky thinker.

    Great guy, passionate and stalwart football man, sadly missed

    Wilson

  3. Funnily enough I never met David Cook but we texted and emailed each other about various football matters. I feel like I knew him quite well. This is a (long) text he sent me after a Fury game. The “flower of the south” is a real Cookism.

    ” The joy of football is the pursuit of GLORY !

    Fury travelled north once more and returned to Tauranga with all the glory.

    For 93 minutes it looked like the Flower of the South would be frustrated having clearly been the superior outfit throughout.

    Then came the drama.

    An edge of the box free kick awarded to the Fury deep in to added time was hit goalward by striker Matias Bartolozzi and finally landed at the knee of 89th minute substitute Taha Ferris who made no mistake from 7 metres.

    The relief was felt all over New Lynn with the Fury players and followers crazy with passion.

    Fury had gone to the sheds at half time level with the home side nil nil feeling pretty hard done by.

    They emerged for the second half with a tweak to line up.

    Within a few minutes Luis Cabrera was replaced with JP Rosende and switched from left back to the right of midfield.

    Cabrera brought energy, power and goal threat.

    Santiago Gadea on for the injured right back Juan Piedralba delivered a delightful cross controlled by Bartolozzi on his chest who fired over from 5 metres.

    It seemed Fury would have to settle for a disappointing draw until super sub Ferris was introduced to the fray with a few minutes left on the clock and provided the coup de gras in sensational style to the send the Southerners home happy.

    It was another spirited performance from the Fury who continue to display tenacity and passion for the cause.”

  4. I’ll never forget him calling out to me from the sidelines as I was photographing the John Kerkhof leg of the Cambridge v Waitemata NRFL promotion playoff… “ENZO! Fury will be playing Roma soon!!!” The best part is he wasn’t joking. He really was that ambitious…

  5. My son (Oliver) encountered Dave in the Welcome Bay Tavern while with family friends having dinner. Dave said to my son “what’s your name”? Oliver Valentine he replied, Dave replied, I’m responsible for bringing your dad here….
    For all his Dave’s faults, which were always pointed out by others. He had a football heart, he loved the game no wanted to be part of something very special. I’ve no doubt that if Dave could of some how found a way to share the load and trust people, he would of achieved his goal, rather than almost! RIP Dave.

  6. Hi Tony,

    In a sense Dave DID achieve a goal.

    He took a team from obscure non-league status to within a penalty kick of the national league title and was also just a second leg away from a Chatham Cup collect. That’s closer than most of us ever get.

    Sure, he was unable to repeat the prescription second time around, but who has? Dave was a footballing pioneer, albeit a controversial one.

    Still, as I have always said, its the administrators who can be normal in a football world like ours that you really need to worry about

    Dave was never a role model, and at times was distinctly Fagin-esque.

    But I think there is still plenty of inspiration to be found in his experiences.

    He illustrated the art of the possible in New Zealand football… that with as few as 3-4 people you could do almost anything in the code here.

    1. It’s a pity Dave wasn’t further involved in New Zealand Football at an earlier stage, as we have experienced for many years it’s been jobs for the boys and keep your head down, don’t upset anyone mentality….
      He might not of been the ideal person but he sure would of shaken it up and made football the priority!

  7. Last season as coach of Onehunga Mangere I encountered Dave Cook at his beloved Maramatanga Park for the first time. Upon arrival in our team coach we were greeted by a grazing horse, three spectators and Dave who was marking the pitch ( a job not usually associated with a club chairman’s job description). Over the course of the day I chatted to Dave before, during and after the game and was struck by his absolute belief that this ground would “be an international stadium in the next 5 years”. Indeed, Dave displayed boundless energy and passion for his club from, marking the pitch, putting up the latest “box nets” ordering the aftermath grub (15 pizzas) and selling overpriced cans of beer to our players and supporters from an old fridge in the clubhouse at the after match. During the match he harangued the ref for every decision that went against his team and from the 85th minute implored any player to belt the ball into an adjacent cornfield to “soak up some time”. Afterwards he duly MC’d the after match speeches. If we could have harnessed that energy Auckland would be lit for 6 months.

    Dave’s passion, enthusiasm and love of his team and football in general was evident for everyone to witness bar a blind man. The game in NZ is bereft of characters both on and off the pitch and Dave was a cross between Del Boy, Arthur Daley and an astute football coach. The game is poorer without him and although I barely knew him he was an asset to the game we all love. RIP Mr Cook.

  8. im sure im talking on behalf of alot of players that was brought out from the uk to play at the mount
    in the 80s. if it wasnt for cookie i wouldnt of played for such a great club met my wife and had my kids born in nz.put so much into the club beyound belief . always be remembered bj

  9. Dave cook lived for the game and was very dedicated to Mt Maunganui football club he made the club what it was
    It was great to know you cooky rest in peace we had good times back in the day
    Great memories

  10. RIP Dave Cook
    A true character all right. We met many times during AFC Fury’s ascent up the BOP leagues. It was always entertaining to see what players he would turn up with, often collected from the Sunday league teams in Hamilton. One year it was mostly Somalian immigrants I think, as they climbed off the minibus at the Edgecumbe Domain. What do you pay them I asked Dave, he smiled and said ” Just a feed of KFC on the way home”.
    One memorable game happened at the end of the season, Plains Rangers travelled to play unbeaten champions Fury away, and by a miracle, beat them 1 – 0. In the aftermatch speeches Dave congratulated us and said he’d been videoing the game to see what players he would keep for next season. He said we could have the video, he wouldn’t need it, sending the strong message to his team that he didn’t want any of them!
    He’ll be sorely missed, but probably not by the league administrators too much!

  11. I ave know Dave over the last 30 years and can certainly say i have never seen anyone with so much passion for football and wanting to improve the game. what he has achieved with Mt Maunganui FC over the years is almost unbelievable, from obscurity to the top in such as short space of time. From my personal experience dealing with Dave from that very 1st phone call at 3.30am in the morning our local time in N Ireland to my dealings with him in hospital before he passed away, not once had he ever let me down, if he said he would try and do something he did try. As others have said he changed lives and he certainly changed mine from getting 2 weeks notice that i was on my way to NZ where he picked me up from Auckland Airport, organised somewhere for me to stay, to helping me find employment , to helping me sort out my permanent residency so that i could stay in this beautiful country, Which is where i met my wife. If Dave hadn’t done what he said he was going to do then i’m sure my life would have been so much different than what it is to-day. So along with my wife and 6 kids we are grateful for everything that Dave has done, and i for one would certainly not be able to call this beautiful country my home without Dave’s help. Dave changed lives for a lot of people, RIP MY Friend

  12. Crikey, Enzo, you could put together a bloody good playing XI from posters on this thread…. All White Brian Roberts, Tony Valentine, All White Tony Ferris, the excellent Brian Strutt, and, erm, Rod de Lisle….

    Is there any other Back of The Net thread where the people who comment could match such playing pedigree?

    1. Thanks for my dubious inclusion in that team CB. My main contribution on the playing field was to make others look good. Usually they were opposition players……

  13. Dave Cook, a one-off and while we had a few prolonged and agree-to-disagree type discussions (he would phone to enlist support for his latest rallying call) he was always engaging and never patronising which is something football administrators are often guilty of. The last time I spoke at length with him, by the time I got off the phone my partner had given up on me and my dinner had gone cold. No doubt Dave would have said that’s what microwaves are for.

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