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Maria’s fun in the sun!

Maria Tutaia tells us all about her new outlook on life - and why she's taking it easy
Maria Tutaia

Stretched out on a poolside lounger with her long legs hanging off the end and a mojito in her hand, Maria Tutaia is frowning with concentration. “Do I want a sticky date pudding or a peanut butter parfait?” she asks seriously. “Stuff it. Both please!” she says, grinning up at the waiter. “Right. What bikini should I wear for the next shot?”

A few months ago, the thought of ordering two desserts before pulling on a teeny-tiny two-piece would have terrified the stunning Silver Fern. “Well, if I’m honest, I was nervous this morning,” she admits in between mouthfuls of sweet stuff. But the Maria Woman’s Day is shooting on this sizzling Samoan summer’s day is very different to the Maria who left New Zealand’s shores in October, scared, vulnerable and questioning her very love for the game that has given her so much.

We sat down with the Silver Fern stunner to chat about her new outlook on life, what she’s learned during her time away from netball, and how she turned it all around.

After the Ferns’ agonisingly close World Cup campaign, which saw the team walk away with a silver medal, things came to a head for the athlete when she realised that she had “nothing left to give”.

It was then she decided to make the unprecedented move of asking Netball New Zealand for a sabbatical and withdrew her name from Constellation Cup selection.

“You know something just isn’t right when you’re having second thoughts about something that’s been so deep within your heart, you’ve cherished, and you’ve always known and loved all your life,” Maria reveals.

Maria used the opportunity to take some rare time off, tackling one of the biggest items on her bucket list – shouting mum Niukini and dad Fuisami – whose names are tattooed on her goal- shooting arm – a special overseas trip to Europe.

The Tutaias spent a month travelling around France, Italy and Spain, and Maria says she took the opportunity to cut loose, eating and drinking many delicacies.

Following the European jaunt, Maria took time out to visit her aunt and uncle in Hawaii, and it was here that she finally got a chance to think – but not before she’d figured out how to make her body actually relax.

“My aunty Soana forced me to slow down. I’d get up, go to the gym, then come home and clean the house while she was still asleep. She didn’t like how I would hustle and bustle around the house at 8am every day, so she’d tell me to relax, sleep in or have a cuppa!”

And between the surfing attempts and the margarita drinking, Maria found she was at last able to come to a realisation – one that will make netball fans happy.

“I’m in such a positive space and I’m so happy. I’ve learnt a lot about myself,” she reveals. “And I’m ready. It’s netball time and Maria’s here to play. Maria’s here to win!”

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