Wallaroos v Black Ferns

Kendra Cocksedge: “Young girls now strive to be a Black Fern”

As the Black Ferns prepare to face the USA Women's Eagles in Chicago this weekend, we caught up with former World Rugby Women's Player of the Year Kendra Cocksedge to take a closer look at her playing career and why she enjoys her role as a Women's Rugby Development Manager for New Zealand Rugby.

In the case of Kendra Cocksedge, tap dancing’s loss has very much been rugby’s gain.

The Black Ferns scrum-half, who was introduced to an oval ball aged four when it was decided that dance lessons were not for her, showcased the full range of her talents to lead Canterbury to a second successive Farah Palmer Cup success in October.

Cocksedge amassed 27 points as Counties Manukau were dispatched in the final, and will now turn her attention to New Zealand’s three-test tour of USA and France.

November’s matches in Chicago, Toulon and Grenoble provide an opportunity for the squad’s vice-captain to edge ever closer to a personal landmark – a half-century of international caps.

“I’m on 44 tests for the Black Ferns and obviously our captain, Fiao’o [Fa’amausili], is the first one to get to 50,” Cocksedge said ahead of their first test on US soil, against the Women's Eagles, this weekend.

Half-century goal 

“So, my motivation at the moment is to keep enjoying being given the opportunity and being grateful for wearing the black jersey but also I really want to get to 50 tests for the Black Ferns and still be playing some of my best rugby.

“And that’s what probably motivates me.”

Returning to France for back-to-back tests against the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 semi-finalists could bring back some painful memories for the 30-year-old.

A member of the squad that won the World Cup in England in 2010, Cocksedge was also present four years later in Paris, when a shock 17-14 pool-stage defeat to Ireland helped consign the Black Ferns to fifth, their worst finish in the showpiece tournament.

Having also lost her place in the sevens squad for that year’s World Series, and the full-time contract that came with it, it was a tough 12 months for the number nine.

Turning point

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She quickly rebounded, however, and focused on her 15s career, ending 2015 as both New Zealand’s and World Rugby’s Women’s Player of the Year.

Two years later Cocksedge travelled to Ireland determined to wrestle back the Women’s Rugby World Cup trophy from England, a feat that was achieved with a 41-32 defeat of the Red Roses in the Belfast final.

“For me, a big turning point was 2015,” she said. “That was awesome for me. It was a really tough year, and to be awarded that was awesome but then obviously to win the World Cup back off England last year would probably overrule that in terms of a team space.

“That’s something special. I was a part of the 2010 World Cup when we won, also part of 2014 when Ireland beat us and kicked us out.

“So to get [the World Cup] – we were going over there and that’s what we were coming back with. Us older ones that were there in 2014, we had one job and that’s what was going to happen.”

Future pathways

Cocksedge is yet to make a decision on her long-term future, and whether she will be around in 2021 to attempt to complete a hat-trick of Women’s Rugby World Cup wins.

However, in her role as a Women’s Rugby Development Manager at New Zealand Rugby – covering the six Crusaders' regions on the country’s South Island – she is helping to create the pathways that it is hoped will encourage the next generation of Black Ferns.

Cocksedge is determined to provide young girls with opportunities that were not available to her when she started playing for a boys’ team in Taranaki 26 years ago.

And it seems the production line of young female talent is in rude health with New Zealand’s ‘Baby Ferns’ winning sevens gold at the recent Youth Olympic Games in Argentina.

“I was just watching [the Youth Olympics] the other day and just seeing the talent that’s coming through, I’m out there and I’m seeing it,” Cocksedge said.

Role models

“I’m seeing all these young girls come across to rugby from other sports, and I think what’s helped that is having our Black Ferns out in the environment and out in the community and kind of rubbing shoulders with these young ones.

“Not all sports kind of do that, I think that’s what we’re benefitting from. These young girls now have role models.

“It’s good for these young girls to be rubbing shoulders with the Black Ferns after winning a World Cup, and with the Black Ferns Sevens after winning their Commonwealth Games gold.

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“It helps having a community and creating that good vibe, and good environment, and having those young girls see that and just want to strive to become a Black Fern.”

Cocksedge has been particularly visible having appeared on Small Blacks TV in 2017, conducting a kicking masterclass alongside All Blacks fly-half Beauden Barrett.

Small Blacks TV fame

“Young girls can actually see that it’s not just a male sport, I guess,” she said. “Rugby’s for everyone.

“But cool to be the one on that show, and I had a lot of young boys come up to me and be like ‘oh, you’re the one on Small Blacks TV’.

“So, it’s pretty cool for me as well and for young boys to see that and notice that. 

“It’s good if young girls that are starting off at their age and are playing – them watching it is almost normal now whereas back in the day it probably wasn’t that normal.

“But that’s just the way that we’re going now and it’s what’s really exciting about it.”

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