For years I subscribed to the Sydney Morning Herald for two reasons, and they are both now departed.

I speak of Peter Roebuck and Mike Cockerill, the former a flawed individual away from the typewriter or computer but with a unique turn of phrase and ability to tell the story of a day of test cricket like no-one else could.

I loved his way of opening a sentence with an emphatically convincing term.

Patently, he had a way with words. Moreover, he rarely toed the party line of the often parochial cricket press.

Roebuck was always an individual who told it how he saw it rather than toeing the line and projecting something that everyone else thought.

Perhaps because he was an outsider he felt he could hold Australia's use of "mental disintegration" of opponents under Stephen Waugh to account, but while 90 per cent of the pack were invariably championing it, he would question and seek a more friendly, worldly approach.

Cockerill, too, was a unique journalist in that he would do things his way.

It was the old school journalism way. I recall picking up the paper every morning knowing that I could depend on Mike to deliver all the key info under his byline.

It was credible and accurate. 

As a football true believer I had an insatiable thrust for football information, and Mike, on a daily basis, would be the best bet to get 'all' the important information.

Every day he would deliver.

While he would invariably only get one column - remember football in those days would have to fight for every column inch and still does - Cockerill would invariably pack so much into those 500-700 words.

Often four, five or six stories in one. The main story, of course, would feature at the top, but below it would feature another series of paragraphs, each with a unique new 'break'. 

These days we have Twitter and an endless feed of football 'information' and 'Breaking' headlines. In truth, much of it is just rehashed press releases and agent driven drivel. 

Mike, to my knowledge, was not overly fond of the social media forums, but had he been on Twitter he would have broken the 'Breaking'.

Mike stood out because he chased the story and spoke to so many to get his stories. He transcended old soccer and new football and knew everyone within.

"What do ya know?" was the way he would always greet me when we caught up at football games or functions. I imagined I wasn't the only one he would greet this way and it was his way of always getting a good "yarn". 

While I never had the good pleasure to work in the same office, I always pictured Mike working the phones not stop, doing the rounds from one contact to another to get his news and views.

Today his daily SMH articles would look like the front page of any online football portal, with six or seven individual articles, all very strong.

By virtue of my part-time analytical writing on The Round Ball Analyst and subsequent sites such as The Roar and Football Today, I wasn't always in press boxes or at press conferences and functions, even preferring to keep a healthy distance so as not to get too close and let it cloud my judgement, but rather let my own assessment of coach and performance dictate my words. 

When I did sit among the press I was pleased to see Mike stay behind in the press box and not attend press conferences. He never caught me as one for cliches and going through the motions.

Like Roebuck, he preferred to paint the picture with his own view. When I saw that, it gave me comfort in my own approach.

Mike was over all the big stories. I recall, most vividly, his work, in 2005, in delivering the news that Frank Lowy - only with the support of Mohamed Bin Hammam and Peter Hargitay - had been able to convince the Asian Football Confederation to allow Australia under its wings from 2006.

I touched base at the time to thank and congratulate him on his writing and we reflected on what a big moment it was for  our game.

Mike was always batting for the game. He advocated often for better facilities owned and run by the game, and while we are starting to see that, he would want nothing more than to see those of us who carry the flame continue to shine it bright.

Categories: People | Football Life

mike cockerill

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