Meet Cooper Bament - A rising star in the NT umpiring ranks

Cooper Bament

In the world of Australian football, young umpire Cooper Bament is rapidly becoming a name to remember. Hailing from the Northern Territory, Cooper's journey from local leagues to national prominence is turning heads in the sport. 

At his age, while many teenagers might opt for casual jobs in retail or fast food, Cooper discovered a passion for umpiring that has taken him far beyond his hometown.  

Starting in the TIO Northern Territory Football League (NTFL), Cooper has swiftly ascended through the ranks, officiating in leagues across Australia including the Central Australian Football League, Big Rivers Football League, AFL Cairns, Brisbane, Gold Coast, and AFL Victoria. 

Reflecting on his beginnings, Cooper shared, “My dad and my brother were umpiring first and then my dad got into it and getting fit and getting paid and I thought that was quite a good idea.” 

“So, I thought I would start umpiring as well, and that was 4 years ago.” 

“I did my first under 10s game with John Howorth, who is an AFL umpire at the moment, that was a great way to start my umpiring career.” 

Beyond the thrill of the game, Cooper emphasises the broader benefits of umpiring. 

“Definitely a skill set I reckon,” he noted, stressing the confidence, communication, and teamwork skills umpiring has developed in him. 

“You get a lot of confidence in your judgment and in yourself and in what you bring to a team; collaborating with other; communicating with others on and off the field. 

“Money is a nice side-bonus, but I think the people skills you get from it are priceless really, you don’t get it in any other job.” 

Cooper's talent hasn't gone unnoticed. He's had the opportunity to officiate in various locations across the NT and beyond, including memorable experiences in Alice Springs, Katherine, and even metropolitan areas like Melbourne. 

“So, a year into my umpiring, I went down to Alice Springs with Matt Skoss, who is an umpire down there, and that was my first few games that I did down there,” Cooper said, 

“And then we went down to Katherine, me and dad, and then we continued on from there and then in the last 2 seasons we’ve been to Cairns and Brisbane, and then Gold Coast this season, and that’s been really really fun. 

“Just meeting tonnes of new people, getting to travel and doing something where you’ve got connections with other people.” 

With Melbourne being the home of AFL, Cooper took a step further in his skill development taking the opportunity to discuss thoughts and ideas amongst some veteran umpiring figures. 

“We also went down to Melbourne where we met Don Cook (veteran AFL umpire with 1000+ games), and he put me in touch with Brett Pallini (30 years umpire experience),” Cooper recounted of his time in Melbourne. 

“I did a game down there that was absolutely lovely, just a great atmosphere. Everybody who was there was very nice. Considering it was my first game down there and it was so chilly. That was really good, that was my men’s Division One game in Melbourne at Monk Oval.” 

Whilst Cooper rises up the umpire hierarchy, he is not the only one. Multi-talented athlete Emma Stark became viral after her AFLW umpiring debut on Marvel Stadium in a Hawthorn and Essendon clash at just the age of 16. An incredible achievement for someone who begun her umpiring journey at the age of 13 in the NTFL. 

Looking ahead, Cooper is optimistic about the future of umpiring in the NT, citing other talented young umpires like Jack Warmsley and Josh Cooper. He believes there's ample potential for the NT to produce more AFL-quality umpires with the right support and encouragement. 

“I know Jack Warmsley, he’s a great umpire; Josh Cooper; Samson Bament (Cooper’s older brother) they’re the umpires that I hang around with,” Cooper said. 

“It’s a really nice group because they’re all slightly older than me so it means I have to be a bit more mature when I’m around them, and that sort of gives me a bit of a pathway for when I have to interact with older people (players and umpires) and that’s really good. 

“I’m doing the Under 16’s Marsh National Development Championship, I joined a call with two guys; Jacob and Harry, and they’re from Victoria and Queensland and we had a chat with them, and we made some footy cards with each other, so that was really nice.” 

Recently, Cooper faced one of his biggest challenges yet as a field umpire in the PINT versus St Mary’s Women’s Premier Grand Final. Despite the pressure, he remained composed, making critical decisions in a closely contested match. 

“I was very nervous going into it,” he said. 

“I’ve never been in that kind of environment before where you’ve got a massive crowd, and the pressure is on. 

“I remember in that last 5-10 mins I was the endzone umpire and there was a about a goal in it, so every decision I made could have meant one team won it or lost it.  

“I just locked in and had to concentrate, zone out the crowd and take in every decision like it was in the classroom, and that was such good skills for me because I’d never done that before.” 

However, Cooper’s takeaway from his time as an umpire stem far deeper now than when he began his umpiring expedition. 

“I think the big lure for young kids I reckon is definitely a connection with other people and I know that if we really push friendship-building and getting together with mates, I think it’s a great thing to do,” he said. 

“Just collaborating with people, getting kids involved. There’s obviously the money side of things, which a lot of kids are interested in, but the people who are looking to go far don’t really think about that.  

“And all these skills that I don’t think kids realize they need until it’s too late in life. I think if we broadcast that a bit more and educate kids a bit more that it’s not like ‘umpires are bad people’ I think we’d get tonnes more young kids into it.” 

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