The theme is now more common. It happens more often. And after the ASB New Zealand Rugby Awards, the proof is that Women’s rugby is taking over the rugby world.
Evidenced best last night, when Kendra Cocksedge claimed the Kelvin R Tremain Memorial Player of the Year award at the ASB Awards evening, held in Auckland.
If girl power was strong in the 90’s, then it didn’t quite take hold in rugby. Yet now, and with a forthright stance by World Rugby and especially NZ Rugby, the proof is that women’s rugby is starting to show that it can ‘rule the world’.
Beyonce Knowles lyric; Who are we? What we brought? We run the world.
Who run the world? Girls
That tune might be one being played when the Black Ferns next assemble, as the XVs team; as much as the successful 7s team, enjoyed an award-winning evening [by comparison to years past]. Highlighted by Cocksedge, who is the first women to be nominated in the main Player of the Year (POTY) award category; let alone claiming the gong on her merit alone.
— Black Ferns (@BlackFerns) December 13, 2018
Women’s Rugby ‘rule the World’ at ASB Rugby Awards
More comfortable on the rugby field, the New Zealand Black Ferns halfback took full attention at the annual NZ Rugby Awards. Dressed to the nines’ and showing a humble appreciation of her success, where she personally scooped three major awards;
New Zealand Rugby Women’s Player of the Year
Fiao’o Faamausili Medal (Farah Palmer Cup MVP)
Kel Tremaine POTY winner
In a clean sweep – unexpected but, certainly well deserved – Cocksedge and her women’s XVs teams’ only failing was not claim the Team of the Year award. It was near to perfect though. A perfect illustration of the respect that women’s rugby is given, and in this players performances….fully deserved!
Black Fern Kendra Cocksedge the first woman to win NZ Rugby's top player award #watchherplay #abouttime #genderequality #equality #NoCeilings #blackferns https://t.co/4bTfh0SrgR pic.twitter.com/sxlrXacTQq
— Paul J. Kononoff (@rumen8er) December 14, 2018
In the company of NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, NZ Rugby board member Dr Farah Palmer and co-hosted by Rikki Swannell, the evening was so much more balanced than past awards ceremonies; in respect to the common trend in rugby in general.
Women’s rugby has risen to unheralded heights. Breaking an unspoken ‘glass ceiling’ according to New Zealand’s national daily newspaper [who ran the Kendra Cocksedge story on its front page]. From the back pages to the center of attention….yeah ‘women currently rule the rugby world!’
See list of full awards winners here.
Public recognition from NZ Rugby unprecedented
NZ Rugby has been prominent is it’s respect to accomplishments breaking new ground – and why the five-times Women’s Rugby World Cup winners, and current XVs and 7s World Cup holders are afforded front page news. It cannot get any better than that.
In sublime form in 2018, Cocksedge emerged the winner of the prestigious award from a strong field of nominees featuring All Blacks Brodie Retallick, Richie Mo’unga, and Codie Taylor. It follows the Canterbury and New Zealand player’s 2015 World Rugby Awards International Women’s Player of the Year prize.
All major news networks carried the story, with Cocksedge and other women’s rugby winners, such as Sevens Player of the Year Michaela Blyde, a part of the major adidas New Zealand Team of the Year winning Black Ferns 7s, showing that women’s rugby has ‘turned a corner’.
Trending upward, sending the right signal to young women, who want a pathway to success in sport.
Success in rugby for women can now include contesting major awards. Not on the sidelines, never a curtainraiser – now a double-header event, standing beside the men’s XVs and 7s teams.
Minimal backlash to POTY Award being won by Kendra Cocksedge
Popular acceptance of the award was instantaneous. It was trending all over social media. Popular, and well-intended although several posts exhibited an establishment consciousness, that women and men ‘might not be able to be’ compared.
Retallick is one of the worlds elite.
Taylor arguably AB’s best this year and a Super title.
Mounga Super Rugby player of year and steered Crusdaers back to back.
But a women who only played 5 tests (lost one) and won a provincial title is player of the year? Please?
— Sam Casey (@Sam_Casey4) December 13, 2018
It started a conversation – should women and men be comparable? (if the men play 14 tests, and women’s rugby only had five Test matches). Yet, the reaction was split, with some admitting that a three-to-one ration isn’t consistent. Yet, others argued that it was not the ‘quantity but the quality’.
And Last Word on Rugby agree with the latter.
In essence, Kendra Cocksedge has been judged on International matches, as much as her Farah Palmer Cup form – her Canterbury team dominated the season, and Cocksedge was phenomenal in the grand final.
So while a few dismiss the effort as piecemeal others are standing behind the judgments. If the game is to be considered a world leader, then it needs to match the norms of society. One where women are the center of a household, and where the sport is enjoyed by equal markets. So where girls and boys enjoy the game, the statistics describe that young women are taking up rugby union; and rugby sevens, like never before.
If children, young women, and parents can visualize their children demonstrating the same skills and desire that Cocksedge, Blyde, Sarah Goss and recently retired Black Ferns leaders, Fiao’o Faamausili and Linda Itunu, all exhibit. Fine examples, and all showing the values and commitment needed to rise to the top – rising to the level where a woman can deservedly claim the top higher at the NZ Rugby Awards.
Not piecemeal, not scratching for ‘media space’ but an honest judgment of how well one rugby player matched against all others. One comparison wherein 2018, Kendra Cocksedge was seen as ‘more than equal’ to three leading All Blacks.
Rule the world? That’s the Hollywood twist. In reality, being respected is how the wahine of New Zealand Rugby are being treated. It has taken years of trying, but by results and in their examples, the rewards are clearly demonstrating equal opportunities and measures that are world-leading. Now that is a great way to look forward to the New Year.
And so say all of us!
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images