International AFL visionary receives Queens Birthday honours

Jan Cooper has been a trailblazer for the AFLW competition and International growth of the Women’s game, spending over a decade vouching for female football and helping increase participation numbers by hundreds of thousands.

It’s been a long road to success, and yesterday Cooper was acknowledged for her efforts, receiving one of the nation’s highest honours, an Order of Australia medal.

Jan was the driving force behind the Australian Youth Breeze tour of NZ back in 2013 along with a link between NZ talent and the U18 AFLW National Championships, resulting in a number of young women from New Zealand taking part in the Australian based tournament over the past 4 years.

Killarney Morey represented Tasmania and the Eastern Allies at the U18 AFLW Championships.

“I’m kind of overwhelmed because I didn’t really understand the enormity of it, I kind of do now that messages have been coming in,” Cooper said.

“I think it’s probably recognitions for the battles I’ve fought, basically been having a vision for the female football pathway, both participation and talent.”

“To me, it’s an OAM, but I kind of think it’s our Australian medal, because there’s so many people that shared the vision, shared the hard work, so I’m going to call it our Australian medal.”

While Cooper is unsure who nominated her to receive the award, she is extraordinarily grateful for the recognition, and would like to thank them personally.

“They wouldn’t tell me who nominated me, I have no clues, I have no idea but thank you to whoever it was because it’s quite pleasant,” she said.

“At about five am the phones started pinging and I’ve finally gotten out of bed and thought ‘oh my goodness!’ I completely forgot it was going to be announced today.

“A lot of the ‘east coasters’ had woken up, so there was a big barrage of ‘east coasters’ at first which slowly trickled into locals and some of the messages have been so lovely.”

The West Coast Eagles Football Club also rallied behind Cooper, with celebrations throughout the day.

“This is what I love about this club, I came through and I got a big hug and congrats from ‘Sparksy’ (Kevan Sparks) our Property Manager, and as I came around the corner to Community and Game Development, there was this standing ovation,” Cooper said.

“I thought ‘oh my goodness!’ and I was quite embarrassed, but secretly my heart was going ‘oh I love these people!’ the acknowledgment was completely spontaneous and out of left field.”

The award also helping with a cheeky competition with her father John Cooper, an inductee into the WA Football Hall of Fame, and a Life Member of Swan Districts and WAFC.

“My Dad, he’s bit of a legend of the game, we’re having a little competition, Dad’s got a street, half a grandstand and half a cup named after him, and he’s got an OAM.

“I’ve been coming up at the rear, a little bit younger than him, I’ve got an OAM and a whole cup named after me,” Cooper laughed.

“Anybody out there who’s got a grandstand, I’m your girl,” she joked.

“But not really, and in all seriousness, there’s a lot of people out there that this recognises, not just me.

“And yes it’s lovely that they’ve recognised me, but there’s so many people that have been part of them as well, and I’ve been blessed not to know them just as work colleagues, but as friends as well.”