Growing up, Sam Sinclair was a Silver Ferns ball girl, aspiring to be like Casey Kopua, and dreaming of one day wearing the black dress.
Now, Sam’s a key member of the Silver Ferns starting seven, playing alongside her former inspiration, now friend, Casey Kopua, and vice-captain of the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in the ANZ Premiership.
After a busy year of touring the world for the Commonwealth Games, Quad Series and Constellation Cup, Sam’s preparing for her next big challenge. She’s one of four Step Higher Award recipients from the University of Waikato who will follow Sir Edmund Hillary’s footsteps in Nepal in February: climbing 4800 metres to Ama Dablam Base Camp, fundraising for the Himalayan Trust Literacy Programme, and working in local schools and hospitals.
“I’m really excited to go to a place I’ve never been,” Sam says. “No matter how much I read about it, I know it’s going to be a bit of a surprise when I get there. I’m also looking forward to engaging with people from a completely different culture and I think it will give me a deep appreciation for what we have in New Zealand.”
She’s already underway with her fundraising, having raised more than $1,000 for the Himalayan Trust through selling raffle tickets for Silver Ferns kits. “It was cool to see how many people were willing to buy raffle tickets and support the cause.”
The former John Paul College student from Rotorua started playing netball when she was six, inspired by her older sister who played. Sam became a Hillary scholar at the University of Waikato in 2014, the same year she joined the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic. She debuted for the Silver Ferns in 2017, quickly becoming a valuable player alongside fellow Waikato student Kelly Jury and alumna Laura Langman.
She says winning the Hillary Scholarship has been crucial to maintaining her high sporting and academic performances.
“Being a Hillary scholar has been a big highlight of university,” Sam says. “We get so many opportunities to become better people – figuring out our personal purpose, listening to all the great guest speakers, doing public speaking courses, engaging with the other scholars and seeing what they do – it’s great to be part of that community.
Her competitive drive has been asset, not just on the netball court but also in the lecture theatre.
“When I start something, I want to get it done. Sometimes it’s a challenge to juggle assignments and tests with netball tours, but I love it. The sense of accomplishment makes it all worth it.”
Sam graduated with a Bachelor of Management Studies in December, and will return this year to complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Leadership Communication.
“I know I’ll only be able to play netball for so long, so I want to set myself up for a career for afterwards,” Sam says. “I’m passionate about working with people and helping to create change in society, so I’d love to be involved with some sort of social enterprise one day. In New Zealand, we’re so blessed to have the opportunity to help others, create change and give our lives purpose and meaning – it’s so important to step out of the box and do something that will inspire people.”