A budding partnership in women’s sport is helping young players flourish beyond the jersey, as Sudima Hotels awards four scholarships to ambitious Counties Manukau rugby players. The awards are the latest benefit of a collaboration between the national hotel group and Counties Manukau Rugby Football Union (CMRFU), which last year worked together to refurbish the Counties Energy HEAT’s changing rooms and reopen them as the most luxurious women’s rugby changing rooms in New Zealand.
The 2023 scholarships were awarded in December 2023 to four rising stars of the HEAT:
  • Margaret Manase has received $4,000 to support her Bachelor of Arts study in politics and international relations.
  • Joy Vaaga, who has just started a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Auckland, has received funding to cover one of her major academic expenses – $3,000 to buy an Apple 13 MacBook Air.
  • Hazel Tubic was awarded $1,950 towards a leadership course to support her goal to become a career rugby coach.
  • Grace Gago has received $1,000 towards her Samoan language and culture course at Manukau Institute of Technology.
Joy Vaaga debuted for the HEAT as a high schooler, in the position of prop. After the Farrah Palmer Cup, she played for the Counties Manukau u18s and made the New Zealand Barbarians U18 Girls squad. Joy was a standout student athlete at McAuley High School as a Year 13 Academic Prefect and Senior Sportswoman for athletics and rugby. And she has started her tertiary career with the same aplomb, winning a 2024 University of Auckland Top Achievers Scholarship on top of her Sudima award.
Joy says, “I am planning to major in business, economics, and marketing because I would like to be a successful Pasifika entrepreneur setting up a variety of business opportunities with talented Pasifika youth across Auckland, in fields such as sports management, fitness, community health initiatives, design, and technology. Further education will also develop my current charity work after establishing Joy and Light Charitable Trust in 2020 to support the holistic wellbeing of children and youth in South Auckland who have been affected by the pandemic and then the extreme weather events of last year. The laptop makes a huge difference to my study – thank you to Sudima for all their support.”
Part of Margaret Manase’s tertiary study involves participating in extracurricular activities such as Model United Nations conferences, international study tours, and other academic conferences and symposiums. Margaret’s $4,000 scholarship from Sudima Hotels will help pay for the second year of her degree in 2024 and support some of her travel costs to attend a chosen overseas academic conference to enrich her understanding of global affairs and foster connections with peers and experts in the field. Meanwhile she plays lock for the Counties Energy Heat.
Margaret says, “When I found out I won the scholarship, I was shocked, excited, and so happy. It lifted a weight off my shoulders for the next year. I want to work for the United Nations and am involved in some UN Youth programmes. I think my pursuit of higher education in politics and international relations resonates with the #prideinthehoops values of Counties Manukau Rugby, which emphasises courage in the face of adversity, hard work and perseverance, connectedness, and the pursuit of excellence.
“This funding bolsters not only my immediate academic pursuits but also my long-term prospects, because the knowledge and skills I acquire through this education will help lay the foundation for a successful and fulfilling long-term career and equip me to make meaningful contributions to my community and our society.”
Sudima Hotels and Hind Management’s Chief Financial Officer Helen Watson feels a special connection to the partnership because of her own sporting background, as an integral member of the World Cup-winning New Zealand women's cricket team in 2000 and a current member of the NZ Cricket Players Association Trust Board. “We are well aware that funding of sports is sometimes uneven between codes and between men’s and women’s sports, . Our collaboration with the CMRFU and support of the HEAT reflects our history of supporting aspiring young people and our brand’s commitment to excellence.”
Les Morgan, the Chief Operating Officer of Sudima Hotels and Hind Management, “We are thrilled to have progressed our strong relationship with the CMRFU by supporting the academic and leadership pursuits of young members of the squad. Margaret, Joy, Hazel, and Grace are all very worthy recipients of the inaugural Sudima scholarships with CMRFU. We are proud to support them and we will be cheering them on as they reach new heights in their academic and sporting careers.
“We are greatly enjoying this rewarding partnership with the CMRFU and look forward to opening applications for the second round of annual scholarships later this year.”
Peter Shaw, Women’s High Performance & Pathways Manager, says: ‘This incredible innovation from Sudima Hotels has allowed us to take the Women’s High-Performance Program at CMRFU to another level. The New Zealand provincial women’s rugby pathway is still very different from the men’s game; it has its own unique challenges and constraints for our most talented young women coming through. The program is a ground-breaking initiative at the provincial rugby level. It provides meaningful rewards and resources to our student-athletes and those who are diligent in their personal and professional development off the rugby field.
“Margaret Manase is a name to remember for the future. Her opponents on the rugby field know her name due to her ferocious tackle technique. Off the pitch, Margaret is an intelligent and charismatic young leader; she has the world at her feet now. She actively seeks opportunities to better herself and her community.
“Joy Vaaga was plucked from high school to play for Manurewa Premier Women’s in 2023, where she stood out as a 17-year-old. In addition to balancing her selection into provincial rugby, Joy excelled academically outside the classroom. Her Sudima scholarship selection is a result of her being chosen as a Prefect in her Year 13 and ultimately being awarded the University of Auckland’s Top Achievers Scholarship in 2024."