Who Is Walter Pless?

Walter_Pless

A teacher by profession, but is now in his 38th year as a football writer. Has written for "Soccer Action" (Melbourne), "Australian Soccer Weekly" (Sydney) and "World Soccer" (London), as well as for several Tasmanian newspapers. Currently contributing to "Goal!Weekly" in Melbourne and the Australian magazine "Soccer International". Played for Croatia-Glenorchy, Caledonians, Metro, Rapid and University in Tasmania, as well as in the United States of America. Coached University, Metro and Croatia-Glenorchy.

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Cockerill Michael 01 10 13 001 - Copy

Photo:  Mike Cockerill in relaxed mode in Launceston in 2013 [PlessPix]

Mike Cockerill, the doyen of Australian football journalists, passed away today aged 56 after an illness.

I counted Mike as a close friend and was chuffed that he had a real love for Tasmanian football.

Mike Cockerill in the vast expanse of Aurora Stadium Launceston 1 February 2012 - Copy

Photo:  Mike Cockerill at Launceston's Aurora Stadium on 1 February 2012 [PlessPix]

Mike always came to Tasmania for FFA Cup games and his last visit was for the Olympia versus APIA Leichhardt game at KGV Park on Tuesday, 1 August 2017.

As we left the ground, I had no idea it would be the last time I would see him.

Mike was a workaholic when it came to football and he left Hobart early the next morning to fly to Darwin to commentate on an FFA Cup game for FOX Sports.

Mike had come down on the Sunday and we watched the South Hobart game against Kingborough Lions United at South Hobart Oval.

We had lunch the following day and it was then that he received a call from his editor at the The Sydney Morning Herald informing him of the passing of SBS football commentator Les Murray.

Mike was delighted to visit Devonport twice last year, despite the torrential rain on both occasions, for the two games the North-West Coast side played against interstate opponents in the FFA Cup.

He admired the work of Devonport president Rod Andrews and the fact that the club had put Tasmania on the Australian football map.

He believed passionately in Tasmania having an A-League team and wrote several compelling columns in the Sydney Morning Herald arguing for Tasmania’s inclusion in the national competition.

I first met Mike when he used to come to Launceston as a FOX Sports commentator for the annual A-League friendlies at Aurora Stadium.

Mike Cockerill at work for Fox Sports Launceston 1 February 2012 - Copy

Photo:  Mike Cockerill in the FOX Sports commentary box at Launceston's Aurora Stadium on 1 February 2012 for the A-League game between Melbourne Victory and Gold Coast United.  The game ended in a 1-1 draw and Harry Kewell scored the goal for Melbourne Victory. [PlessPix]

Born in Adelaide, Mike covered the game in Australia for over three decades and he followed the Socceroos at World Cups and in Asian competitions.

He was inducted into the Football Federation of Australia Hall of Honour in 2011 for his outstanding off-field contribution to the game in this country.

One of my funniest stories and memories involving Mike was from earlier this year.

Mike and his wife, Jo, had come to Tasmania on holiday and they, together with David Clarkson and me, had drinks at a pub near Salamanca Place before going to dinner at The Ball and Chain.

After dinner, Mike noticed his mobile phone was missing. For a journalist, that was a disaster, given all the contacts he had on it.

We returned to the bar where we had been seated at a table on the footpath at the front of the establishment.

There was no sign of the phone on the pavement and Mike was just about to go inside and ask the staff if anyone had handed in a phone when I decided to look in a flowerpot that was near our table.

Bingo! As I rummaged through the flowers, I felt the phone with my fingers. I couldn’t believe my luck. Mike just about hugged me as I pulled the phone out of the flowerpot and held it up for him to see.

When we had been sitting at the table a couple of hours earlier, he had swiped the table and air with his hand to scare away a pesky blowfly and had knocked his car keys off the table and onto the pavement. Unbeknown to us, he had also knocked his mobile phone into the flowerpot and he hadn’t noticed it was missing until hours later, after dinner.

He never let me forget my detective work and he was always ever so grateful.

Cooling and Cockerill 31 July 2017 - Copy

Photo:  Mike Cockerill (right, in grey jumper) at a media conference at FFT headquarters the day before Olympia's FFA Cup game against APIA Leichhardt a month ago today [PlessPix]

Mike taught me much about Australian football and many of its characters, and I admired his writing and commentary on television greatly.

I always considered it an honour when he phoned me before a game involving a Tasmanian side and an interstate team and asked me to fill him in on the Tassie side.

I will miss his company and his friendship and his words of wisdom about this game that so many of us love.

He was an outstanding journalist and his influence and authoritative opinions about football in Australia will be missed.

My condolences go to Jo, son Toby and daughter Daisy.

Mike Cockerill watching game at South Hobart 30 July 2017 - Copy

Photo:  Mike Cockerill (in sunglasses and grey beanie) watching the South Hobart versus Kingborough game at South Hobart on 30 July this year [PlessPix]

Comments   

+1 #5 Richo 2017-09-02 00:10
So sad to die so young. Vale Mike
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+13 #4 Gilly 2017-09-01 09:34
My thoughts are with you and everyone close to Mike, Walter.

In my conversations with Mike in Devonport last year I was blown away by his knowledge and his interest in all forms of football.

I can also say with confidence the feeling was mutual, he remarked to me how high a regard he held you in.

Vale Mike.
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+21 #3 Brian Young 2017-08-31 21:43
He will be sorely missed as a journalist and a decent human being. Vale Mike!
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+24 #2 Anonymous 2017-08-31 21:19
Thanks Walter for a great article. I enjoyed Mike's passion, listening to him on the tele.
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+24 #1 Steve Darby 2017-08-31 15:31
Top class personal rememberance of a great journalist and a greater man. An honest man who loved the game.
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