Career : 1914
Debut : Round 6, 1914 vs Melbourne aged 26 years, 242 days
Carlton Player No. 299
Games : 16
Goals : 27
Last Game : Grand Final, 1915 vs South Melbourne, aged 27 years, 20 days
Guernsey No. 22
Height : 179 cm (5 ft. 11 in.)
Weight : 85.5 kg (13 stone, 6 lbs.)
DOB : 6 September, 1887
Premiership Player 1914
Leading Goalkicker 1914
Another of the many star players recruited by Carlton from the Bendigo district, William “Billy” Cook enjoyed one spectacularly successful season at Princes Park in 1914. After kicking five goals on debut, he played the next sixteen matches in succession, including the Blues’ famous Grand Final victory over South Melbourne later that same year.
From the scant information available, it seems that Cook originally made his name as a defender for the Bendigo City Football Club, before being switched into an attacking role and grabbing Carlton’s attention. He was 26 years old when the Blues convinced Billy that fame and fortune were waiting for him in Melbourne, and he became just the second player to wear Carlton’s number 22 guernsey * on to the field in a VFL match when he was included in the side that took on Melbourne in round 6, 1914 at Princes Park.
Recovering from a shaky start to the season, the Blues demolished the Fuchsias by 58 points – thanks to their dominant goal-to-goal line. Five goals from Cook at centre half-forward, and four from spearhead Vin Gardiner set up Carlton’s victory, as the pair began a relationship that made the Blues’ attack the most potent in the competition – at least until late in the year, when Gardiner suffered a hip injury that prematurely ended his season.
With Cook a focal point in attack, Carlton suffered just one defeat (to Geelong in round 7) on the way to finishing one win clear on top of the ladder after the home and away rounds. A comfortable Semi Final victory over Fitzroy then saw the Blues installed as hot favourites for the Final against South Melbourne, but the Bloods upset their rivals on a wet and slippery MCG to win by 21 points.
As they were entitled to do, Carlton then challenged the Southerners to a Grand Final play-off for the flag, and won by a kick in a controversial finish. In the last minute of the match, South’s Tom Bollard seemed certain to take a mark in his team’s goal-square, before Blues’ full-back Ernie Jamieson came from nowhere and jumped onto Bollard’s shoulders to spoil. Seeing Bollard propelled forward, Bloods fans screamed for a free kick, but the umpire was unmoved and the siren sounded with Carlton still ahead by six points. Cook kicked one of Carlton’s six majors for the match, taking his season tally to 27 and making him the clubs’ top goal-kicker in a Premiership year.
Carlton was anxious to keep as many members of its flag-winning as possible at the club afterward, but the turmoil surrounding Great Britain’s declaration of war against Germany in early August had created upheaval throughout Australian society. Cook was among a large number of players and staff to depart from Princes Park after celebrating the 1914 flag, many to enlist for military service, others to move closer to family.
In Bill’s case, he went home – cleared back to Bendigo City in April 1915. To date, no further details about him have emerged, except that he passed away on June 10, 1949 at the age of 61.
FootnotesThe first player to wear number 22 for Carlton was Alf Williamson, who left Princes Park to join Melbourne shortly before Bill Cook arrived. Tragically, Williamson was killed in action in France in April, 1917.
Billy Cook was allocated Carlton’s guernsey No. 28 for the 1915 season, but didn't play another senior game.