PETER Cook knows he has “big boots to fill” when he starts preparing the West Lions for a defence of their Group 4 first grade premiership but the former premiership-winning prop is determined to give it his best shot.
Cook, 53, played for the old West Tamworth Robins before they merged with Tamworth City and became the West Lions in 1997.
He started as 17-year-old junior and finished 14 years later after the club had won three first grade premierships under John Bailey (1981) and Steve Martin (1986-87).
“I had some good coaches,” Cook said. “Beetle (Bailey), Steve Martin, Ray Laird.
“We won 22 straight under Ray and then lost the two that counted.
“We were very strong in those days.
“Our reserve grade sides were very strong.
“But I’ve got big boots to fill.”
He was talking of retired West Lions coach Tony La Chiusa who coached the first grade side for 16 successive years, winning seven Group 4 first grade premierships, the last five of them in succession.
“He’s done a great job,” Cook said.
“Sure, it’s going to be hard for us but this is the start of a new era.
“ We’ve got a new committee and it looks pretty good.”
He hopes to have around 90 per cent of last year’s premiership-winning side back although he has lost captain Brendan Hunt (retired) and prop Chris Vidler (Manilla captain-coach).
“I’ve had a few talks with a few of them,” he said.
“Some won’t make a decision until after Christmas.
“But we also have some good Under 18s coming up – about five of them – while there are still some other young kids who will play Under 18s next year but might also play a bit of first grade.
“It’s good to see former players like Smiley (Neil Alderton) put their hand up and jump on the committee too.”
While Cook is a former premiership-winning prop, he has had some coaching experience.
“I coached the 18s the first two years when the Robins and Lions merged,” he said.
“Last year I coached Bendy.
“They went all right.
“They got beaten in the semi at Dungowan – just went to sleep in the second half.”
Cook is also hopeful the West Entertainment Group steps back from its plan to bulldoze Scully Park and build a motel on the iconic oval.
“I think it’s a silly idea to jam it (the motel) there,” he said.
“Why not on No 2 or build a big L shape down Kent Street like Stan Cole (former president) wanted to do all those years ago.”
All those people concerned should attend an information night in Blazes at Wests from 6.30pm tonight when the architects of the motel will be available to discuss the development.
Only financial Wests members are eligible to attend.
While that night looms large, Cook hopes to begin training in mid-January.
“We’re hoping to get a good roll-up to those sessions,” he said.
“We’ll have all three grades training together on the Tuesday nights,” he said.
“We’ll also have a ladies league tag side too.”