World Champion Black Fern Stacey Waaka says she's living her dream. A role model for young Māori women on and off the field, she hopes to inspire young Māori women to chase goals in academia and in the sport. Te Kāea caught up with her at her graduation.
An athlete and an academic, Stacey Waaka can do both. She says balance is the key.
"It's been quite hard because I've been overseas pretty much every couple of months but also trying to balance that with the needs of my social life also so it's been quite hard not attending some of those it's been cool though really enjoyed it."
A Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar at The University of Waikato, Waaka has graduated with a Bachelor of Sport and Leisure Studies majoring in Sport Management.
"The lecturers have been quite understanding, they have been giving me extensions and stuff and they understand the world of sport and being an athlete so that's quite helpful. My friends and family are really understanding also they know that I'm representing NZ on a world stage and if I can't make an event it's all good."
She places this latest achievement in the upper echelon, saying " I'm happy, very happy, I'm overwhelmed, didn't think much whānau would come but obviously a pretty special occasion to be graduating with Bronson (brother) also so really really happy."
The Black Fern grew up in the small community of Ruatoki. She's passionate about encouraging other young Māori women to realise their potential.
"I always like going back home and showing them hey I've represented our country. My biggest goal in life is to inspire and to show them that I can study whilst playing professional rugby is quite cool. I always tell them, 'nothing worth having ever comes easy', so they've got to work really hard for whatever they want to do."
This year she helped her World Cup winning Black Ferns take out World Rugby's team of the year. She's also a member in NZ Women's Sevens Rugby side.
"It was real hard in Dubai our World Series we came 5th so we've got a lot to fight back for Commonwealth Games are in April. The next three months is going to really busy with my New Zealand girls but we're really looking forward to the challenge ahead."
The Commonwealth Games will be held in April on the Gold Coast of Australia.