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Source: University of Otago

Otago medical student Mariana Winiana in action on the field. Photo credit: Huhu Images.
Sport has always been a big part of Mariana Winiana’s life and studying medicine hasn’t changed that.
The third year Otago medical student recently returned from playing touch rugby in Australia, where she competed as part of the New Zealand Touch Blacks Mixed team.
One of several University of Otago players in the contingent squad, Mariana (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāpuhi, Kāi Tahu) says it was a great experience. They had three wins and three very close losses in hard-fought games.
Mariana, who now plays for the Otago region, has played touch rugby since she was at primary school. She was part of the 2014 New Zealand under 15s mixed league squad when they played in Australia and since then it was her goal to make the Open Touch Blacks team.
Mariana, who plays on the wing, has always enjoyed being part of mixed teams. She says it’s the right fit for her and she likes the speed and challenge of the game.
“There’s also a really good culture on and off the field, which makes it fun.”
In terms of juggling her studies with sporting commitments, Mariana says as touch in New Zealand is a summer sport, fortunately most of her games fall during the main University break. But regardless, she will always make time for sport.
“I’ve always been a sportsperson; it’s a big part of my life. I think it’s really good to have an outlet, something physical that gives you a brain break.”
As touch isn’t a professional sport, players must pay their own costs, such as fees, travel and accommodation, and this is a challenge, especially when you’re a student. Mariana says she received great support from family and friends, as well as from her iwi Ngāti Ruanui and the Skeggs Foundation.
Mariana plays hockey to keep up her fitness in the off-season and is looking forward to the national trials later this year for the mixed team to attend the Touch World Cup in England in 2024.
She is really enjoying her medical studies and the lifestyle change from her home town of Warkworth in the upper North Island, to Dunedin. At this early stage, Mariana has no set career plans, but she is interested in potentially working in an emergency department or rural hospital, or as a rural GP.
-  Kōrero by Andrea Jones, Team Leader, Divisional Communications