New deal: Versatile referee Graham Cook gives Lismore City’s Heath Conlan time to cool his heels with a yellow card in a FNC rugby game last year.
New deal: Versatile referee Graham Cook gives Lismore City’s Heath Conlan time to cool his heels with a yellow card in a FNC rugby game last year.

Coffs referee to make soccer debut

GRANDSTAND footy fans who love hurling abuse at referees – this one is for you.

Graham Cook is the top rugby union whistleblower in the region – he has overseen the past 20 Far North Coast grand finals.

But this weekend, for the first time, Cook will put himself up for a double dose of first-grade abuse when he backs up from the FNC grand final rematch between Lennox Head and Lismore to control his first premier division soccer game between Ballina and Lismore Workers.

Cook will have less than 24 hours to free his mind of the laws of rugby and tune in to the intricacies of the round-ball code.

“I treat it like being at a carnival,” Cook said.

“After the rugby (today) I will go home and watch some soccer on the television, get all the soccer gear out and put myself in that frameof mind.”

While the game at Ballina tomorrow will be his premier league debut, Cook has been getting a feel for the game in the lower divisions.

And, after decades of refereeing rugby, there have been a few mix-ups.

“In rugby you are always around the ball,” he said.

“I learnt quickly in soccer that just isn’t the case. You have to officiate from a greater distance as the ball moves so quickly from side to side and end to end.

“You would run out of puff pretty quickly if you tried to stay on top of the ball in soccer.”

Cook says that the two sports are equally demanding on a referee, though rugby requires a much greater lung capacity because the whistle is far more prevalent.

His subconscious will need to be sharp so that he doesn’t call line-out when the round ball goes over the sideline on Sunday.

But we are sure there will be plenty of grandstand fans who will help him out should he make a boo-boo.



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