John Cocks, August 23, 1966-February 6, 2019
John "Cocksy" Cocks was farewelled in his beloved hometown of Tairua on Monday with his last and most memorable test match — a funeral complete with commentator, referee, ball boys and yellow cards.
Hundreds of friends gathered with family to celebrate in Cocksy-style the life of a man described by friend and commentator on the day, news presenter Simon Dallow, as "the ultimate Kiwi bloke".
Held outside the Tairua Rugby Club under a huge marquee, it was a game of two halves for the 52-year-old who lived life to the fullest and always went surfing when the surf was up.
Cocksy's life was recalled by those who were beside him at each stage — as a rugby player in Paeroa, a typographer at the Thames Valley Gazette, a self-taught builder who became a "very fine craftsman", an accomplished surfer, a family man, husband and charity man.
He was an ambassador for the charity KidsCan and gave his time to help others even when life with cancer was taking its toll.
Cocksy kept his sense of humour until his final hours. He was diagnosed with cancer on Anzac Day three years ago and died on Waitangi Day, leaving behind his "girls" — soulmate and wife Dana and daughters Georgia, Ella and Sophie and loyal sidekick — his dog Biggie Smalls.
Mum Joan kicked off the first half describing the young Cocksy, who attended the two-classroom Whenuakite School when the family first moved to Cooks Beach with Cocksy then aged 6.
The family lived in a caravan while his dad Reg built their house.
"If it was called sport, John played it," Joan said. "Cocksy was a cricketer, rugby player and surfer but perhaps most admired for his physical prowess on the dance floor."
When the family moved to Paeroa, Cocksy attended Paeroa Central College and moved up "the town hierarchy" by playing rugby — where on the field he was tougher than he looked.
His love of the game continued throughout his life, with his rugby mates from the Takapuna Turtles on the North Shore, Auckland, saying Cocksy never played the celebrity card except for one day when he became a target, and ended up battered and bruised at the bottom of the ruck.
"He said 'ah ... matey I've got to shoot a commercial next week'," said former teammate Brett Wilson.
Many sides to Cocksy were revealed at the "match" — including his poetry writing, his ability to sew, and his knack for getting out of trouble.
His youngest daughter Ella said the girls "hit the jackpot" with their dad, who loved his girls more than anything. At one point when money was tight, Cocksy sewed the ball dress for his eldest daughter Georgia.
The funeral service may well have solved any mystery surrounding the disappearance of garden gnomes in Paeroa some 30 years ago, and some of the Paeroa contingent got clarification on what the word "quintessential" means, after questioning why people from Auckland kept describing their mate as "the quintessential Kiwi bloke".
Always interested in drama, Cocksy became a household name as a "celebrity builder" on shows such as Treasure Island, DIY Dads and My House My Castle, and joked that he was Cocksy the TV builder who'd never built a TV.
He was loved for his humorous, down-to-earth presence on television but remained a hard-working and skilled craftsman, a man who surfed hard, was always there for his girls, and was rewarded for his charity work by finding the love of his life, Dana, at a Variety Bash function 10 years ago.
According to his wishes, Dana did the honour of nailing the last nail into his coffin before the "ball boys" put his coffin in his Holden for a final burn around the rugby field.