By Andrew Bryan
A year of stress and injury has melted away after Mikayla Pauga earned a prestigious AFL scholarship at Bond University.
The Narangba Valley State High School student has secured a Riewoldt Family AFL Excellence Scholarship and hopes to break into the AFLW while pursuing her career goal of becoming a sports psychologist at an AFL club.
It has been a tough 2020 for the Maroochydore Roos forward who will turn out for the Bond Bull Sharks next year.
She suffered two separate spiral fractures and needed surgery to insert plates in a hand and wrist.
“It’s crazy to have the scholarship. It’s a lot bigger than anything I thought I would achieve and it has really help set me up for next year,” Pauga said.
“It has been pretty stressful leading up to exams. There has been a lot of unknowns and at the beginning of the year we didn’t even know if we’d be able to go to school or graduate.
“It’s made me work harder and focus on the things that are really important to me.
“The main goals is to get drafted into the AFLW, that would be amazing.”
The diminutive 161cm 17-year-old kicked 12 goals last season after moving from midfield to full forward.
Pauga hopes to make the same impact at the Bull Sharks where she will juggle AFL with a Bachelor of Psychological Science thanks to the scholarship.
“I usually play midfield but this season in QWAFL I got pushed into full forward and it was actually really good, I ended up being one of the top goal scorers in the competition,” she said.
“It was definitely nerve-racking playing with a bunch of older players and having the pressure to kick the goals to finish off their hard work, but I really enjoyed it.
“Being in QWAFL is a big step up and playing alongside the girls who have been picked up in the AFLW at Bond is going to be very exciting.”
The budding musician hopes to be on song for the Bull Sharks and move into work as a sport psychologist.
“I find the mental side of sport really interesting and very important,” she said.
“I want to push into sport psychology and work with one of the AFL teams as a sport psychologist.
“I want to get straight into university and get the degree finished so I can get straight into working.”
As a proud partner of AFL Queensland, Bond University offers two Riewoldt Family ALF Excellence Scholarships each year for students commencing in the following January semester.