A tribute to Cooper

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.

This is how Tim Marsden described his best friend, Tony Cooper, one of Fiji’s renowned cricket personality.

Cooper died in Australia recently.

Marsden spoke on the life of Tony and how he loved to play cricket.

Marsden is no stranger to Fijians. He came to Fiji from Australia as a bachelor in 1971 and worked at the then Bank of New South Wales which is known now as Westpac. He returned to Sydney in 1973. He married his wife who is from Kadavu and they returned with their two sons in 1980 to resume work at the bank until 1986. He also worked for Fiji Chemicals for 11 years and Carpenters Motors before retuning last year. He spent 25 years in Fiji.

“Tony was born on June 6, 1939 and passed away on June 21, 2017,” Marsden said.

“He was educated at The Waverley College in Sydney’s east and close to the infamous Bondi Beach. I believe he first came to Fiji in 1969 and worked with Stinson Pearce/Pearce & Co. (the Seiko brand agents) later and for many years he was the manager of Burns Philp Trustee Company, up and until its closure because of the collapse of Estate Mortgage in Melbourne, Australia.

“He later joined Westpac in Suva and held the position of Public Relations/Marketing Manager for 10 years. He then was involved with The Trustee Corporation for some time until he left Fiji to return to Sydney to be with his very ill brother, Geoff.

“Tony had two children from his first marriage and later was married to Tute (nee Daveta from Kadavu) and formally of Air Pacific Ltd. Tony’s love of sports was no secret to his friends and associates and he loved mainly baseball, cricket and golf. His love for baseball began at an early age and he played the game throughout his youth.

“With bat and ball a priority, it’s not surprising he then took to cricket, playing at school and also in Fiji and in later years taking a non-playing role as umpire. Tony also had a love for golf, both from a player’s perspective and also the administration angle.

“He was a member of the Fiji Golf Club in Suva for many years and held the position of honorary secretary/treasurer of the Fiji Golf Association under the presidency of Sir John Falvey.

“In 1980 Tony was the team manager and took a team of four to the World Amateur Golf Team Championship at the Pinehurst Resort and Country Club in North Carolina, USA.

“He also managed the Fiji team during the 80s to a regional team events in Belmont NSW. Belmont is where Tony lived and spent his last days. Another administrative responsibility he held was the Fiji Team manager to the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Australia, in 1982.

“There is no doubt that Tony loved life and sport to the fullest as is evidenced from his lifetime involvement in the arena. He is survived by his daughter Deanna and son Brett,” Marsden said.

“For many years when he lived in Fiji, he wrote a column in the sport’s section of The Fiji Times named “Off the Tee” which was all about golf and this appeared in each Saturday’s edition.

“It kept golfers and followers of the game of the happenings in the previous week and also of up and coming events.

“Tony was a gifted writer and he included in the column some humorous anecdotes of the game which made for reading a priority before your hit off time every Saturday.”

Another inspirational figure in Cricket Fiji is Peter Knight — a close friend of Cooper.

Knight, a barrister and solicitor in his private law firm called Crompton’s, was emotional as he related the unforgettable moments and achievements he enjoyed with his best friend who helped him explore Fiji when he arrived here in 1972. They met through cricket.

“As the years passed, we got to know each other much better and shared many convivial meetings, normally over a cold Fiji Bitter or a hot bacon sandwich, either at the bar of the Defence Club or on the balcony of our home.

“Many topics were discussed, particularly about the latest developments in cricket which was our joint love.

“Those meetings were always enjoyable and will remain in my memory for many years.

“Tony was heavily involved in sports, particularly golf and cricket. He managed the national team on a number of overseas trips. He was involved with community work with Red Cross and Rotary club.

“After Tony left Fiji and returned to Australia we were regularly in contact by telephone and in the late years he supplied me with detailed reports on international cricket matches happening around the world.

“Despite his health problems, he always remained positive and cheerful and there was never a sign of self-pity,” Knight said.

Tony Cooper died at the age of 78 because of skin cancer, and he will be sorely missed and one thing everybody will miss about him is his love for sports and his personality.

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