A role model for women
FORMER Emerald local Maeriana Tumai was told about her selection as a shadow player with the Queensland Reds women's rugby union team at the start of this year.
She has been busy ever since throwing herself into the team's training regime while relishing the chance to be a role model for other young women in sport.
Ms Tumai, now 21, left Central Queensland when she was 19 to study a Bachelor in Secondary Education, majoring in physical education and minoring in history at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
She said the team has now played their first two games of the season, winning firstly against the Melbourne Rebels and last weekend against Western Force from WA.
"Currently I'm training along with the team and seeing how the professional players train.
"There's quite a few Wallaroos representatives on the team so it's nice being able to train with them.
"I'd never thought I'd be where I am.
"I started playing in high school because at Emerald State High School we had a rugby academy and then I stated playing in the 7s comp.”
She said she trains three times a week, including a gym session, a review of the weekend's game and strength and conditioning on the field.
"In total there's 36 of us.
"They pick 24 players to take away for the games and the rest of us can go and watch the games or continue training.”
Ms Tumai said she's always loved team sport, including touch football and netball.
"Netball was one of the first team sports I got into and it escalated from there.
"For me sport allowed me to communicate with people - you're always talking and you're always going to have a friend on your team.
"Being able to focus on something and have a goal was always a big help.
"You go to school but then you go to your sport and it's just a different world.”
She said she still enjoys the friendships and camaraderie, as well as her newfound position as a role model for girls in sport.
"I think it's absolutely awesome.
"I'm setting a path for younger girls in sport, whether it's rugby or swimming.
"I like being able to set that example and show girls that we can also tackle.”
She said she also likes being able to show the boys "I can do what you can do, maybe I can even do it better”.
She said the growth of women in all sports was "empowering”, and she was inspired by other women in her sport who had returned to the game a year after childbirth.