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Source: Massey University

NZ Black Sticks Lulu Tuilotolava.

As part of celebrating Uike Kātoanga’i ‘o e lea faka-Tonga – Tonga Language Week, we interviewed recent graduate and former NZ Black Stick, Louisa (Lulu) Tuilotolava.

Lulu began studying at Massey in 2017 and graduated with a degree in communications in May. While studying, she was selected to be a part of the NZ Black Sticks (NZ’s National Women’s Hockey Team). Lulu made her debut at the age of 21 and was the first Tongan player to make the squad.  

“Being selected for the Black Sticks was one of the best moments I have ever experienced. I played for the team until the end of 2019. I’m now part of the Performance Network team, which is a tier below the Black Sticks, but I’m working hard to get back into the squad,” Lulu says.

Lulu juggled studying by distance while training and playing professional hockey.

“Studying at Massey was an awesome experience. I was fortunate enough to be in contact with the Pasifika staff support group, where I was able receive help or ask questions about certain things going on. Playing and studying was a struggle at times, and finding motivation was particularly hard when I would come back from trainings and then had to focus on assignments. It was worth it in the end.”

Lulu celebrating graduation with her family and friends

She says being part of the Black Sticks involved a lot of hard work and training.

“When I was part of the squad, I would often train six times a week. This involved hockey training, conditioning, and gym. I currently do strength and mobility five times a week and hockey training three to four times, with a game or two in the weekend.”

Lulu started playing hockey at five years old for Southern Districts in Papatoetoe and says she has made some great memories playing hockey and travelling around the world.  

“One of my most memorable moments playing hockey was when my school team won our tournament in Blenheim. I was in year 11 and just playing with my teammates was so special. My most recent memorable moment was when I was selected to play at the 2018 Hockey World Cup in London. I only had six caps to my name and to be named in the squad was like nothing else.”

“I have been fortunate enough to travel while playing hockey. I went over to Australia a couple of times for hockey exchanges. In 2018 I went to Germany to compete in a pre-world cup tournament, which was an amazing experience playing against Argentina, Germany and The Netherlands. We then travelled to compete in the Hockey World Cup in London, which was phenomenal and the biggest crowd I have ever played in front of. After the world cup, I did some person travel around Europe which was another highlight.”

Since graduating, Lulu started working as a Community Connector at CLM Community Sport in Manakau.

“A big part of my job involves working with Healthy Active Learning schools to engage community groups and enhance play, sport and recreation in the area. This role is such a blessing, I have learnt a lot so far and I am grateful that I can give back to the community that I am from,” she says.

Aside from hockey and work, Lulu enjoys spending time with family and friends, going on adventures, and reading.

Her advice for young women wanting to pursue a new sport or higher education is to surround themselves with like-minded people.

“Ones that support and uplift you and your dreams and goals. It’s important to have a strong support system in your corner, which is something I am thankful to have. If you are pursuing a sport or education, keep believing in yourself and always give things a go, especially the ones that may be uncomfortable or a bit challenging.”