‘Huge shoes to fill’: Top Cat to step aside at end of 2021

Geelong will be on the lookout for a new CEO at the end of the season with the game’s longest-serving CEO, Brian Cook, to step down from the role at Geelong at the end of 2021.

However the Cats are keen for him to retain some presence at the club with incoming Cats’ president Craig Drummond telling The Age the club is in discussions with Cook to ensure he has an ongoing role at Geelong after he finishes in the job he has held since 1999.

“We are keen to keep him in a paid role and active role within the club because he has been huge for our organisation. He continues to be huge for our organisation,” Drummond said.

Geelong CEO Brian Cook.Credit:John Woudstra

“The board, the executive and our stakeholders have nothing but the highest degree of respect for him and we’re currently working with Brian to work out exactly what that role looks like, but I am optimistic and very keen that he stays in a meaningful role.”

Cook, 65, is one of the game’s most highly regarded administrators having overseen West Coast’s quick ascension from start-up to powerhouse club in the 1990s before he took over at Geelong, who were debt-ridden and battling for survival.

With a mantra of going from good to great, Cook, along with then president Frank Costa, coach Mark Thompson and a bunch of emerging young stars were in control as the Cats broke a 44-year premiership drought to win the flag in 2007 under skipper Tom Harley.

He also helped eradicate debt, oversaw the redevelopment of GMHBA Stadium, moved the club out of gaming and made Geelong one of the most respected clubs in the competition as they won three premierships (two with Thompson and one with Chris Scott as coach) and finished top four 12 times between 2004 and 2020.

Cook, who played four games with Melbourne in 1977, has been instrumental, along with recently departed president Colin Carter, in securing government and AFL support for the stadium redevelopment that includes light towers allowing for night football at the venue. He has always said it’s his objective to see the project completed with work on the final stage due to start in October.

Drummond said it was premature for the club to begin their search for a replacement, saying the board would form a plan in the coming months, however he said Cook would be difficult to replace.

“It’s going to be very challenging. They are huge shoes to fill,” Drummond said.

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