A long-serving, prolific tryscoring halfback for Eastern Suburbs and Canterbury, Graeme Cooksley played seven Tests for New Zealand from 1969-72.
The Schoolboys Kiwi and New Zealand Under-23s rep was called up for his Test debut in the 1969 home rubber against Australia. One of the smallest-ever Kiwis at 163cm and 63kg, Cooksley played both matches of the drawn series.
Cooksley, who rebuffed interest from Sydney club Canterbury-Bankstown, featured in all three matches of New Zealand’s 1970 World Cup campaign – scoring a try in the win over France in Hull – and in three post-tournament matches, against Bradford Northern, France A and France B.
Despite playing for a New Zealand XIII against the 1971 Australian tourists, he was unseated as Test halfback by young Aucklander Ken Stirling. Cooksley went on the highly successful Kiwis tour of Britain and France at the end of the year but his only Test outing was off the bench in the series-opening win over Great Britain at Salford.
He played one further international match for the Kiwis, again used as a replacement in their 1972 World Cup loss to France in Marseille.
Cooksley played a then-record 47 games for his province from 1967-75, scoring 31 tries – a tally second only to Mocky Brereton in Canterbury’s history. He was part of the famous 1975 victory over Auckland in Auckland, while he represented South Island against Great Britain in 1974 and Canterbury against Wales in ’75.
The highlight of his club career also came in the 1975 season, leading Eastern Suburbs to Grand Final victory over Papanui (the only year between 1971 and 1978 Papanui failed to win the premiership) as player-coach.
After leading Eastern Suburbs to another decider in 1977, Cooksley’s career wound down with stints for Kaiapoi and Addington.
NEW ZEALAND (1969-72)
7 Tests – 1 try (3 points)
15 tour matches – 3 tries (9 points)
-1970 Kiwis World Cup tour
-1971 Kiwis tour of Britain and France
-1972 Kiwis World Cup squad