Fresh from her gold medal winning performance at the World School U/18 Sevens rugby union tournament in New Zealand, Nelson Bay’s Maya Stewart is not slowing down.
“I will take a short break over Christmas then it’s straight back into training. I am nervously waiting to hear if I will be included in the NSW Waratahs Super W squad, which will determine my immediate future,” the 18-year-old said.
“Then there’s the Aussie Sevens and further down the track there’s the Olympics – it’s a way off but it's all very exciting.”
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Stewart was still coming to terms with the gold medal the Australian team collected after three years of being the bridesmaids. She said the championships were a great experience and allowed her to develop her skills and learn more about the Sevens game.
“It was a sweet victory in the sense that the New Zealanders had beaten the Aussies in the past three finals,” she said.
“I’m still coming to grips with the tour. I was fortunate to play in every match, including the final, and score a try against the Japanese.”
In addition to downing Japan, Australia also accounted for the Cook Islands and New Zealand’s No 2 team before running our easy winners against the top Kiwi side 29-5 in the decider.
The Sevens is an annual rugby tournament that showcases the best under 18 nations from around the world. The Australian girls team was undefeated, while Australian boys took bronze.
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Stewart was a member of The Waratahs club’s senior women’s team this year that was undefeated minor and major premiers in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union competition.
“Maya, who plays in the backline as a centre, is an outstanding athlete and rugby player and her selection in the Australian Girls Sevens squad was no surprise to those who know her style of play,” said Alex Robson, president of The Waratahs.
“Maya earlier this year was selected in the Hunter Women’s Sevens, and the NSW Country Sevens and 15s Merit Squads. In October, she was named by Australian selectors in the Aon University 7s ‘Dream Team’ for her outstanding display of running rugby in the five-round series.
“She has also been named in the NSW women’s training squad along with Waratahs team mate and fellow centre Katrina Barker for the 2019 Super W rugby competition.
“Her accomplishments this year include scoring four tries in The Waratahs grand final victory and being named ‘Most Valuable Player’. She was top try scorer in the local competition by crossing for 27 tries.”
Stewart’s rapid rise in the Sevens has been replicated in the 15-player game. She has overcome a full knee reconstruction and more recently suffered an elbow injury after falling awkwardly in a game.