It has been a huge year for women in New Zealand.

In September we celebrated as a nation the 125th anniversary of the Suffrage movement – which saw New Zealand become the first country to give women the right to vote in general elections.

And as sun prepares to set on 2018, two trailblazing sportswoman are following in the footsteps of Suffrage leader Kate Sheppard in writing their own chapters in our history books.

On Thursday, Black Ferns star Kendra Cocksedge made history by becoming the first woman to win the Kelvin R Tremain Memorial trophy – New Zealand Rugby's award for the nation's top rugby player.


Other nominees for the top gong were All Black stars Brodie Retallick, Codie Taylor and Richie Mo'unga.

Cocksedge also was named the New Zealand Rugby Women's Player of the Year – the second time the 30-year-old has won the award.

NZ Rugby chairman Brent Impey described her win as a "remarkable achievement", while the outstanding Cocksedge said: "I'm hoping there's a young me out there watching and hoping to aspire to win an award like this in the future."

Cocksedge's recognition is another boost for women's rugby, which is already on a huge surge.

In August, a Deloitte review showed women's rugby in New Zealand was growing at a faster rate than the men's game; with registrations up last year by a staggering 13.7 per cent.

As women's rugby celebrates the award, Alexandra Whitley has smashed another glass ceiling on the motorway track.

Alexandra Whitley during the V8 ute championships at Pukekohe Raceway.
Alexandra Whitley during the V8 ute championships at Pukekohe Raceway.

The 25-year-old last weekend became the first woman to win a race in the high-octane NZ V8 Ute championship – and is now setting herself a goal of breaking into the lucrative V8 Supercars arena.

Whitley says she's an "accidental ambassador" for women in the male-dominated sport, and says while there is some banter aimed her way from male drivers: "I don't want to be treated any differently because I am female and they respect that."

Cocksedge and Whitley's success in their sporting arenas comes just weeks after it was revealed female chief executives in the public sector outnumber men for the first time.

As the year draws to an end, the achievements of some of our leading ladies should be applauded. But in 2019, it is clear more still needs to be done to bridge the gender gap.