Taranaki Daily News Person of the Year 2022 nominee: Kendra Cocksedge

As far as retirement scripts go, Kendra Cocksedge could not have written hers any better.

Having declared 2022 would be her last at domestic and international level, the veteran halfback lifted the Farah Palmer Cup with Canterbury before she ended her Black Ferns career triumphant at the Rugby World Cup in front of a sold-out crowd at Eden Park.

The win sent the country into a spin not seen before involving the women’s game as a nation-wide celebration culminated with Cocksedge and her team-mates being honored with a civic reception at Parliament.

Cocksedge’s impact on winning the World Cup, as well as her ability to lift and promote the sport to people all over New Zealand, earned the Taranaki-raised player her a nomination as a Taranaki Daily News 2022 Person of the Year.

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Just 12 months prior to that triumph and a fairytale finish to a Black Ferns career looked a distant dream.

Kendra Cocksedge's retirement followed a spectacular year of success.


Kendra Cocksedge’s retirement followed a spectacular year of success.

Humbled by France and England on a disastrous end-of-year tour in 2021, Cocksedge and the rest of the squad, including its management, went through a thorough examination from New Zealand Rugby that ended with former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith taking charge.

Things needed the change. New Zealand Rugby knew it, the players knew it.

Kendra Cocksedge's final game ended in World Cup triumph.


Kendra Cocksedge’s final game ended in World Cup triumph.

“We knew at that point it was going to be really tough to win the World Cup,” she said from the dining table of her parents home in New Plymouth.

Smith was joined in the management group by the likes of former World Cup winning All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry, Black Ferns Sevens coach Allan Bunting and legendary forwards coach Mike Cron, and it was not long before an enlarged squad had a template set out for them.

“From there it could only go one way, and that was up,” Cocksedge said.

The Black Ferns were honored with a reception at Parliament after their World Cup win.


The Black Ferns were honored with a reception at Parliament after their World Cup win.

The change in fortune for the side was immediate as they went through the lead-up to the World Cup unbeaten, albeit against opposition who were not expected to be their main dangers come tournament time.

“Leading into the World Cup, we were underdogs still,” she said.

It was a title they were happy to accept as they collectively talked up France, and especially England’s chances of winning.

The former was the Black Ferns first hurdle, a semifinal they were extremely lucky to win as France’s goal-kicker Caroline Drouin dragged a last-minute match winning penalty attempt wide.

The emotion of beating France in the semifinal of the World Cup was evident.

Joe Allison/Getty Images

The emotion of beating France in the semifinal of the World Cup was evident.

The reality of winning that match, after losing to the same opposition the four times prior, was not lost on Cocksedge, who was captured dancing into the air after the final whistle.

“There was a lot of people praying it was going to miss, and you feel stink saying it, but that’s sport and the whole time I was thinking it’s not meant to end like this,” she said.

If that match was dramatic the final trumped it again as the Black Ferns somehow managed to steal an England lineout throw as they appeared certain to win the match in the final seconds.

“It’s like everyone says to me, it’s a fairytale ending because not everyone gets to end winning a provincial competition and a World Cup at home,” she said.

“At a lot of people have asked if I’m sure I want to retire, but why would I not want to?”

Now, at the end of a 16-year international career that saw her become the most capped Black Fern, Cocksedge can look forward to her role working for New Zealand Rugby growing the game’s participation.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet, that I’m retired, because I’m still out running and stuff, but it will.”

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