Everything you need to know about the Mike Cockerill Medal

With the Australia Cup 2023 Final between Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar fast approaching, another Mike Cockerill Medallist is set to be named.

Ahead of the latest recipient receiving the very special award at Allianz Stadium, discover more about the criteria behind the medal itself, since its inception in 2018, and the remarkable man whom it is named after by a former colleague and dear friend of the late Mike Cockerill, Andy Harper. 

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Medalha do Cockerao - Andy Harper

The Michael “Mike” Cockerill Medal commemorates the outstanding passion for, service to and visionary coverage of football by the late Michael Cockerill. The Medal was inaugurated by television colleagues at Fox Sports in the wake of his premature death from illness at age 56.

Michael was inducted into Australian football’s Hall of Fame in 2011 for his brave, unwavering and unrivalled coverage of Australian football, over many decades, through his varied media roles, most notably with his writing for the Sydney Morning Herald and television commentary for Foxsports. He was a fierce champion for Australian football and the sport’s community, delivering insightful analysis and robust journalism all delivered to promote the sport, challenge its opponents, and keep those in authority to account.

His contribution was such and his passing so keenly felt by the sport’s broad church that it was felt appropriate a medal be named in his honour. Given Michael’s enduring passion for the “underdog” and the “uncovered diamond”, along with his lifelong commitment to football’s supporting structures, community football and semi-professional football and footballers, the most obvious place for the “Michael Cockerill Medal” lay in recognizing worthy individuals from that cohort.

Moreover, Michael was keenly interested in the history of football in Australia and its pioneer clubs and communities, and the political struggles endured as they built and played the sport they loved. He was a voluble agitator for football in and footballers from Oceania, football in Australia’s regions and football in Australia’s migrant communities, recognizing the stigma that too often, in his opinion, hindered the progress of worthy contributors from these sectors.

Feeling that the professional apex of the game was becoming increasingly better served, and indulged, his sensitivities increasingly focused on the game’s “lower tiers”. The National Premier Leagues (NPL), became a space where Michael’s legacy might shine. So, the Michael Cockerill Medal was inaugurated for the FFA Cup of 2018, a matter of months after his death in August of 2017.

The Medal is awarded to a player from an amateur/semi-professional club who, hitherto, has had no professional football in their career. The Medal is considered by a panel, who identify potential recipients from the Round of 32 of the Australia Cup (formerly FFA Cup) onwards. As truly as possible, the panelists synthesize their considerations as a reflection of Michael Cockerill’s football and community values. In this light, the selection criteria considers the following:-

  • Player has had no previous A-League or other professional experience
  • Playing quality, personality and character
  • Influence on the team and its Cup progress
  • Playing type – an out-of-the-box player, an “X” factor player
  • Should/could be playing at professional level
  • Players emerging from special cohorts; Oceania/Pasifika, refugee, indigenous, recent migrant communities.
  • Recipient may be from the career spectrum; ie a rookie to an experienced, career long NPL player who has played, and served, at NPL for their entire career, and anything in between.
  • Theoretically, a player can win the award playing only one game from the Round of 32 on.
  • The Medallist need not necessarily embody all the above considerations and no singular consideration is more worthy than another (apart from the amateur/professional dichotomy).
  • A player is only eligible to be awarded the Medal once.
Mike Cockerill

Mike Cockerill: A 'genius' lost too soon

Andy Harper first met Mike Cockerill during his playing days - when, out of the blue, Mike asked to catch up for a coffee.

From the moment the pair met in Manly and first spoke football, an enduring friendship was formed.

As Harper graduated from his playing days into a career in the media the two would go on to share a commentary box on many occassions.

"I just think he's one of the smartest people I've ever met," Harper told Australia Cup.com.au.

"I was realising that at the time, but it's not until he's died, that I realised just how smart he was. We haven't had anyone who's been able to encapsulate the issues around the game so succinctly and with such vision.

"He saw things and could articulate things that most people wouldn't know were even taking place and that that was why he was so well respected, right across the industry."

With the unprecedented success of NPL clubs in this year's edition of the Cup, Harper knows Cockerill would have been more suited than many to appreciate their achievements.

"He is one who would be thrilled with the Cup," said Harper,"He's been involved in some very poignant moments in Australian football."

"To watch how this is all growing is a great testament to the football community, and he'd be really loving it.

"And I'll tell you what else, he'd be writing about it with greater poignancy than most." 

List of Mike Cockerill Medallists 

  • 2018: Elvis Kamsoba – Avondale FC
  • 2019: Fraser Hills – Brisbane Strikers
  • 2021: Finn Beakhurst – Lions FC
  • 2022: Joe Guest – Oakleigh Cannons
Joe Guest