7 CFC Games Played
8 CFC Goals
Tommy Cockram was one of the many players who found it hard to make a name for himself in VFL footy. It’s just that in Tommy’s case, the problem was a literal one. He must have been disappointed when, for his VFL debut in 1912, the Football Record recorded his name as ‘Cochrane’. For his second game it was Cochram. And the game’s official publication switched back and forth between the two incorrect spellings for the rest of the youngster’s only VFL season.
But on the field, Tommy Cockram had no trouble making his name stick in the minds of football fans. He seemed to have the knack of attracting both attention and trouble on the football field.
Cockram had been an outstanding player with Flemington CYMS when, as a 22-year-old, he was invited down to Collingwood for trials early in 1912. He didn’t get his first crack at playing in the seniors until Round 9, when he lined up at the Lake Oval against South Melbourne. Named on a half-forward flank, he kicked a goal and performed creditably enough to draw praise from some newspapers. “Cochram [sic] from Kensington way, made a promising first appearance with Collingwood against South Melbourne,” wrote the Football Record. “When the youngster takes the magpie polish he should prove a very useful member of the old bird brigade.”
His second game was even more eventful than the first. He kicked two goals, played well, but was twice laid out by Melbourne opponents. The second knockout came from a nasty blow to the back of his head, and he had to be taken from the ground to recover. There were no reserves in those days, so he was sent back on late in the game and told to recover on the forward line – during which time he managed to kick the second of his goals.
Game three was relatively unremarkable, but the headlines were back after Round 4. He cut St Kilda apart with four goals for the game, including three in a last-quarter blitz, a performance which prompted the Australasian to declare that he would “develop into a very fine player.”
But he was also laid out twice again. The first time was accidental, after a kick from Percy Jory cannoned into the back of his neck at close range, forcing him out of action for a few minutes. The second was less accidental, when a St Kilda opponent belted him. Tommy duly retaliated, and was rubbed out for two matches as a result (the League said it would have been more but accepted he’d been provoked).
The enforced holiday provided a timely breather after a helter skelter start to Tommy Cockram’s VFL career. And at that stage it looked like the Pies had found a beauty. He’d kicked eight goals in four matches and looked every inch an elite level footballer.
He was fast (so much so that he became a regular feature in athletics events out Flemington way), skilful and aggressive. He was a good ball-handler, especially in the wet, a long kick and possessed of good goal sense. At local level he’d played mostly in the centre, but with Collingwood he played mainly at half-forward. He was criticised at times for being selfish and holding onto the ball too much, and also for his occasional fits of temper. Still, he attracted plenty of notice for his ‘fast and vigorous’ work and the way he ‘sprinted along the wings in fine style’.
But the two-week break seemed to halt his career. He played three games upon his return but didn’t trouble the scorers in any of them. He also seemed to lack the verve and speed he’d shown in his first four games. He then suffered an injury and missed the final match of the season.
The end result was that his VFL career finished at the end of the 1912 season, and he crossed to Essendon’s VFA side in 1913, where he was named one of that team’s best players of the season. He ended up with a long career at Essendon Association, staying with them until he went to the Front and rejoining them upon his return in 1919. He never quite lost his capacity for trouble, however, as he ran into trouble with the stewards at the Flemington Athletics Club in 1915 and was suspended for six months “for failing to please the Committee”.
Later that year, as a now 25-year-old married plasterer, he enlisted with the 6th Field Company Engineers. He had previously been knocked back from service on account of his teeth, but this time sailed to Egypt before transferring to France. He had some health issues with rheumatism and influenza, as well as Trench Fever.
In 1918 he was spotted in a village in France playing a scratch game of football with a bunch of fellow soldiers including ‘Doc’ Seddon and, ironically, Percy Jory, the St Kilda player whose kick had knocked him out in 1912. This was just a few miles from the firing line, but the soldiers’ passion for footy could not be stopped.
It continued when he came home too. He resumed playing with Essendon A, and in 1921 joined Mordialloc in the Federal Association as captain, leading them to a flag in 1923. But he missed the Grand Final – and the entire 1924 season – after being rubbed out following a fight in the second semi. He then fell foul of officialdom again in 1926, being suspended for life after belting an opponent in that year’s Grand Final. It’s fair to say he left footy with a bang.
But others in his family were ready to carry on the name. Tommy was one of nine kids, and the youngest of the clan, Norman, went on to play 120 games with Fitzroy in a career that started in 1922. A nephew, Arthur, also played one game with the ‘Roys, in 1929. By that time, everyone knew how to spell the name Cockram – it had a solid football pedigree, and that had started with Tommy.
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