NZDF Sportsperson of the Year Cole Waaka puts in hard yards on and off the field
The top try scorer for last season's Fox Memorial premiership leads a double life.
By day, Leading Aircraftman Cole Waaka has a full-time job as an airman for the Royal New Zealand Air Force, by night, he's putting in the yards for the Warriors' reserve side.
"That's me, Monday to Friday working over there [Air Force base in Whenuapai], and after hours I'm over here training for the Warriors."
Landing an Intrust Super Premiership contract with the club, the 22-year-old was named the NZ Defence Force Sports Person of the Year, and has played eight of the team's nine ISP games so far this season.
"It kind of happened really fast last year. I had a pretty good club season for Northcote, and then progressed from there, played for Akarana in the provincial championship, and then, again, made the NZ Residents from there. So it kind of just built, and built, and built - then I got invited here for pre-season last year for Warriors, so yeah, it was awesome. And now I'm here."
His coach describes him as a technical player, which seems to fit with his trade in the Air Force as an avionics technician. And while he followed a number of his family members into the defence force, he chose to branch out on his own.
"I got the talk from them [my whānau] and they were really keen for me to join the army, but when I came back and did some research into it, I sort of fell into the Air Force. I wanted to do more of a technical role and so I fell into avionics."
On top of that, he's studying towards an engineering degree at the University of Auckland, and has a long-term goal to take up learning te reo Māori.
"My whānau are pretty staunch Māori down in Tūhoe. So, yeah, because I grew up in Australia, I didn't really get in touch with that Māori side of my life as much as I would have liked to, so definitely after I finish my engineering course I'd like to pursue learning Māori and te reo."