Cockayne calls time
York City Knights can regrettably confirm that Ben Cockayne has officially called time on his illustrious playing career.
The popular 35 year old was a relatively late starter in the pro ranks – making his professional debut for Hunslet in 2004 at the age of 21 – but went on to make over 350 appearances in the pro arena.
The former Normanton junior established himself at Doncaster before making the move to Hull KR in 2006 for the first of two spells at Craven Park where he became a cult hero amongst Rovers fans, chalking up more than 200 appearances for the Robins.
Ben also played nine games for Featherstone Rovers in 2011 before a 56 game stint at Wakefield Trinity between 2012 and 2013, and represented England Knights against Samoa in a Rugby League World Cup warm up game in 2013.
Cockayne moved to the Knights ahead of the 2018 season and enjoyed a new lease of life, bringing a wealth of high level experience to the Minster city and was consistently one of York’s best performers, growing into his new creative on-field role alongside Connor Robinson during our memorable Betfred League 1 title winning campaign.
Ben played a total of 35 games for the Knights, scoring 13 tries before picking up a knee injury in the Betfred Championship victory over Swinton Lions at Bootham Crescent in April.
In a heartfelt open letter, Ben said:
After receiving the news that my knee needs reconstruction surgery I’ve decided to call time on my career. I’ve been fortunate to play a large amount of my career on the top tier in the UK.
In the last 18 months being involved with York City Knights has been a very rewarding and fulfilling part of my career. I thoroughly enjoyed my role on the field, non more so than promotion as champions in 2018 against all the odds. Not forgetting my move into the half back position that I hadn’t played since my amateur days. It gave me a new lease of life and brought a whole new level of enjoyment to my participation in the sport.
I had a personal goal to go on and reach 400 appearances, obviously that’s not going to come to fruition but I’m extremely satisfied and proud of the 350+ appearances I have made in the professional game.
I’ll be forever grateful to my old pal Billy Conway who got me numerous trials at various clubs upon leaving the Army, in particular the introduction to the late St John Ellis who was head coach of my first professional club Doncaster Dragons (coincidence i finished my career where he started his). If it wasn’t for Billy’s persistence and desire to keep putting my name forward I may not of had the career I have, which has also included playing for Wakefield, Featherstone, York and Hull KR.
Big thanks to Fordy who I have no doubt will go on to become one of the top English coaches in the coming years and to all the boys at York who have made my time at the club very special. I have no doubt the club has potential to some day reach the super league under the watch of Jon and Fordy.
I am grateful and thankful to all my former colleagues and coaches, particularly a mention to Richard Agar who without a doubt brought the best out of me at a time when my career could have easily been over.
Big thanks to Neil Hudgell who has constantly been a good friend and often a guide even if I’ve caused him more headaches than my Mum and Dad!!
Huge thanks to all my family for the constant encouragement and support, non more so than Mum, Dad and my Grandad who ensured I had all the support in my younger years to have equipment and resources to play the game and get ferried around wherever necessary.
Of course the fans at each club who have cheered me on when I’ve been giving my all and cursed me when I’ve had a stinker!! I’m grateful for you all equally, many who haven’t just been supporters but have become great friends who I will remain connected with for life.
The last thanks goes to my wife Claire who has been by my side for the last 4 years of my career supporting me through the ups and downs and bringing into the world the best thing ever to happen to me with our daughter Molly. I’m looking forward to the rest of life with you both and hope to continue doing you proud in everything I do.
Hull Kingston Rovers Chairman Neil Hudgell said: “I’m delighted to pay tribute to Benjamin as his playing career comes to a close. He’s grown up to be someone who I’m proud to call a very good friend. He’s been a handful undoubtedly, and had some close shaves in those early days, but he’s learned from them and matured to become a great bloke and family man.
“I’ve no doubt at all the next chapter in his life will turn out a Great success, he will approach it with the passion, determination and tenacity that has underpinned his 350 professional games and for which the fans of Hull Kr will always affectionately remember him for.
“Happy retirement Benjamin!”
Ben’s former coach at Wakefield, Richard Agar added: “It’s an honour to pay tribute to Benny.
“I’ve known him for many years, and he’s been a popular and wonderful servant for the clubs he’s played for. He’s an honest, big hearted guy, who’s carved out a great career in the game.
“I got to work with Benny when he was at a low point in his career and life. The way he turned himself around – on and off the field – which culminated in his selection in an England squad, was something very special. He played some great rugby at Wakefield and was a true leader in every sense among the group.
“While he’s been a handful at times, it’s wonderful to look back and admire everything he has achieved. He has a wonderful wife and family and he’ll make a success of whatever he chooses to do next.
“It was a privilege to work with him and have him as a true friend.
“Good luck Benny.”
York City Knights would like to congratulate Ben on a fantastic playing career and thank him for all his efforts in the Amber & Black. The club would also like to wish him well for the next chapter in his life, as he continues to work hard in his off-field role as Knights Partnerships Manager.