For someone who confesses she was a ‘late starter’ to women’s rugby, Stacey Waaka is doing pretty well, having recently represented New Zealand in touch rugby and New Zealand Māori touch rugby.
Stacey is one of this year’s Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship recipients, where she will have her course fees covered, receive specialist coaching and mentoring, and will take part in leadership programmes.
“This scholarship is going to be a massive help for me,” says Stacey. “The financial assistance the Hillary Scholarship provides is going to motivate me even more to achieve my goals.”
Hailing from small-town Ruatoki, near Whakatane, Stacey was the only person in her town who played rugby. “I had to keep myself motivated, fitting in four training sessions a week to keep my fitness levels up.”
She’s a bit of a sporting all-rounder, playing at national level for touch rugby and at regional level for rugby, netball, hockey and athletics.
“Sports have always been my passion. But what keeps me motivated is doing my friends, family and teammates proud by playing and doing the best I can.”
Naturally, Stacey will be studying a Bachelor of Sport and Leisure Studies at the University of Waikato, where she aims to use her qualification in a sports management or marketing role.
She’s also working towards competing in touch rugby at the Olympics in 2016 and 2020.
“My aspiration is to become a professional rugby or sevens player. I want to wear that fern and play what I do best and make this country proud.”
The Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship programme is the most prestigious scholarship on offer at Waikato University. It’s awarded to students who are high academic achievers and who are also achieving in the arts or sports. Scholars have their course fees covered, receive specialist coaching and mentoring and take part in personal development and leadership programmes.