All Blacks Legend, Waka Nathan honoured with NZRU's highest prestige

By Ruth Smith

Recognised for his outstanding contribution to rugby, one of Māori and New Zealand Rugby's greatest, Waka Nathan was honoured with Rugby New Zealand's highest recognition, the Steinlager Salver award.

"There's a slight irony, I think, to him getting a contribution to rugby award, when rugby contributed so much to Dad's life," said Claudette Nathan, daughter of the rugby icon.

With some stiff competition up against All Black teammate, Rieko Ioane and Black Ferns Sevens Captain, Sarah Goss in the Tom French Memorial Māori Player of the Year category, Crusaders and All Blacks hooker, Codie Taylor (Ngāti Raukawa, Mūaupoko) took out the prize.

"I've only played for the Māori a couple of times and this is a huge honour and to carry that through to the All Blacks," said Taylor.

But there was no disappointment for Goss as her Black Ferns Sevens were crowned the Adidas New Zealand Team of Year for the first time, winning the honour after a remarkable year with double-gold at the Commonwealth Games and at the Rugby World Cup 7s.

"When we go out onto that pitch it's all about us.  It's us making decisions and what we can see in front of us.  The amount of trust that, not just Bunts but our whole management team has in us players is really special and that's, I suppose, why our environment is so good at the moment," she said.

But it was Canterbury playmaker and Black Fern stalwart, Kendra Cocksedge who was the star of the show, as the first woman to win Kelvin R Tremain Memorial Player of the Year, and stacking up against some of rugby's elite, such as Ma'a Nonu, Kieran Read and Richie McCaw.

"I've been lucky enough to play since I was four.  Got to play high school, got to play provincial.  Got to play club rugby and also the Black Ferns, so for me it's been a long journey and I've enjoyed every single moment," said Cocksedge.

Cocksedge also emerged as New Zealand Rugby Women's Player of the Year and won the Fiao'o Faamausili Medal for player of the Farah Palmer Cup which cemented her status as the most outstanding player in fifteens rugby in New Zealand - male or female - in 2018.