MAYA Stewart was in the Australian touch squad at the start of the year but craved “something else”.
“I have a bit of mongrel in me. I am one of five kids,” Stewart explained.
Less than 12 months later, Stewart has been selected in the NSW squad to defend their Super W title.
The 18-year-old from Nelson Bay, who helped steer Australia to victory in the World School Sevens Championship in Auckland earlier this month, is joined in the NSW squad by Tahs clubmate and Wallaroo Katrina Barker.
The squad starts training in Sydney on January 7. The competition kicks off in early March.
“Selection came as a surprise,” said Stewart, who finished school at St Francis Xavier College in 2017. “Sevens definitely suits me, having come from touch and being a sprinter. Initially, I started playing 15s in Newcastle to help my sevens. Then I loved it. The breakdown is slower and I am learning the laws easier.”
Stewart hails form a rugby family. Her father, Grant, captained Nelson Bay for many seasons and her uncle, Darren, was also a Gropers stalwart.
“I only started playing rugby this year,” she said. “Before that, I did athletics, nippers, netball and touch footy forever. I was in the Australian touch squad in 2016 and 2018. I have a bit mongrel in me and needed something else. I wanted to play rugby in 2016 but tore my ACL playing touch. I had a knee reconstruction, but worked really hard on my rehabilitation and was back in seven months.”
Stewart joined The Waratahs in the Hunter competition and scored four tries in a 69-5 win over Wanderers in the decider.
A former NSW schools sprinter, she was fast-tracked into the NSW Country and national sevens programs.
Stewart was one of four Hunter players alongside Barker, Bobbi Law and Tahlia Goldsmith in the University of New England side for the Australian universities seven series.
“The uni series was pretty full-on,” she said.
Barker hyper-extended her elbow in the Super-W final last season, where NSW won 16-13 over Queensland in extra-time.
“Cheech is at my club and is a bit older,” Stewart said. “She has been in the sevens system and in the Wallaroos. She has a lot of knowledge and is calming to have around.”
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