After the Silver Ferns’ dreams of taking out the World Cup came to an end last year, Maria Tutaia knew it was time for a change.
The statuesque stunner had given her all to the sport for the past 10 years, and it had taken a toll on her physically, mentally and emotionally.
“I was spent,” she tells Woman’s Day.
“It was my mind, more than my body, that was questioning my love for the game.”
After coming close to walking away from netball completely, Maria made the decision that shocked many fans: she asked Netball New Zealand for a sabbatical and voluntarily withdrew her name from Constellation Cup selection.
While the news predictably caused uproar, the gorgeous 29-year-old hasn’t regretted stepping back. With the rare opportunity to take time off from the gruelling Silver Fern routine, Maria was able to gain a whole new outlook on life.
“It didn’t feel right going into this next campaign half-hearted. Wearing the black dress is an honour only very few women in New Zealand get to experience,” she says.
“I wasn’t going to tarnish or waste an opportunity second-guessing myself and my want to be there.”
With her decision made, Maria packed her bags and crossed off one of her biggest bucket list goals – shouting supportive mum Niukini and dad Fuisami a special holiday to Europe. She cherished the time spent with her parents, and after that leg of the trip came to an end, extended her travels to visit her aunt and uncle in Hawaii.
There, with the gorgeous tropical island as the perfect backdrop, Maria finally got a chance to relax, recover and reflect on her ambitions.
“Aunty Soana is one of the most beautiful people I know,” Maria gushes.
“She’s taught me a lot about looking after myself and doing what makes you happy – well, within reason – and always with a Patron shot or a cocktail in hand,” she laughs.
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