2023 Queensland Hall of Fame – Cherie Brockwell

Cherie Brockwell had a fair clue very early in life that she was going to live in the football world …. on her way home from Royal Brisbane Hospital, just a few days old, she stopped in at Crosby Park so her parents could watch the Mayne Tigers.

Daryl and Carmel Gould were and still are football tragics. So much so that in January 2023 they were each awarded OAM for services to Australian Football, particularly Mayne, in the Australia Day Honours.

Having joined the club in 1966 they have filled just about every volunteer role imaginable across the senior and junior clubs, from secretary, treasurer, registrar, President, team manager, canteen manager, goal umpire and ground manager and also volunteered with the Brisbane Juniors.

The second youngest of five children, sister to Debbie and to brothers Lee, Gavin and Todd, who played at Mayne, Cherie didn’t have a choice. “It was always football or netball in our household,” Cherie recalls. “How lucky were we.”

And how lucky was football. It was the birth of a 30-year involvement in which she played a critical role in the development of the game at junior and youth level and the establishment of women’s football.

Growing up on Brisbane’s northside, she always wanted to be a primary school teacher but admits she ‘may have been a little distracted’ in her last couple of years at Wavell State High school. It was Michael Brockwell, her now husband of 32 years. 

So, at the football one day, she spotted an advertisement in the ‘High Flyer’ for a job with the junior league. Interviewed by fellow Hall of Fame inductee Shane Johnson, she started her first job as a junior administrator for the Queensland Junior Rules Council in 1989 in the Gabba Towers building, overlooking the home of the Lions.

Working under Nicole Duncan, then in charge of the juniors and now a long-time football administration manager at the Lions, she did anything and everything at a time when it was all manual. “You name it I did it, right down to manually ticking off every name on every teamsheet in every game, every week,” she recalled.

She was the receptionist/secretary to the Queensland Development Foundation and worked closely with a host of junior development officers, Dean Warren and Murray Bird among them. Having shown a great passion and application for the game and the job, she was appointed General Manager of the Brisbane Juniors in 1995. She was back at work six weeks after the birth of her first child to make sure youth and junior players had a competition to play in.

Later, she was AFLQ Community Football Manager from 2013-14, AFLQ State Junior Football Operations Manager from 2015-19 and AFLQ Kids Competition and Transition Manager in 2020. She was the first female member of the AFLQ executive, serving from 2013-19, and after the intervention of Covid and the massive administrative restructure that followed she reluctantly accepted a redundancy in October 2020.

“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make because I love football and I love what I did but at the time it was the right decision,” she said, now working as Head of Participation at Netball Queensland, sharing an office with Queensland Firebirds captain and her favourite player, Kim Ravaillion.

She was front and centre through a period of massive growth for the game at junior level. When she started there were 28 junior clubs and 1500 players. When she left there were 70 clubs and over 15,000 players. But it wasn’t all about the numbers. She drove a string of major initiatives that helped the game’s popularity explosion.

In 2005 working with Julia Price, she launched girls football competition in Brisbane, establishing regional teams in Brisbane North, South and West which two years later led to the establishment of club teams for girls. It was a massive thing … the first predominantly male sport in Queensland to offer a female playing opportunity. Long-time AFLQ boss Richard Griffiths remembers the day she introduced him to a 10-year Tayla Harris with the prediction “she’s going to be a star one day”.

In 2009 she secured an important McDonald’s sponsorship for the junior body. Five sports applied for the same funding and partnership. Her pitch was ‘how can we work together to do something special?’. Fifteen years on it is still an important plank in the junior scene.

In 2013 she worked with AFLQ Coaching and Volunteer Manager Jack Barry in restructuring the senior competition to ensure sustainability across the board. And in 2014 she launched ‘Play Your Role’ – an education program specifically designed for youth players aged 12-17. It was all about empowering kids to be quality people on and off the field and was rolled out to more than 5000 players state-wide.

Mother to daughter Samantha, 26 and son Daniel, 19, Cherie played a key role in giving junior football a ‘voice’ and helped establish a fundamental belief that there was a place in the game for anyone and everyone, regardless of abilities and aspirations. It wasn’t all about the best of the best.

“When you think about how far the game has come it makes you so proud that you were able to contribute to the growth of the game and meet and work with so many wonderful people along the way,” she said.

“You go into a job hoping to implement change and provide opportunities and improvement but I’m so grateful for the change and improvement the game has brought to me. I’ll always be a football person.”

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