By Jordan Hughes
Zoe Hanna created history this year by becoming the first female recipient of Bond University’s prestigious John Eales Rugby Excellence Scholarship and now she is making the most of every opportunity starting for the Bull Sharks premier grade team.
The 18-year-old from Kingscliff, who graduated from All Saints Anglican School last year, has been rugby mad since a young age.
“I started playing when I was eight with my brothers. I was originally playing soccer but would fill in for my brothers a few times and absolutely loved it and then I became the first and only girl at my club,” said Hanna.
The John Eales Rugby Excellence Scholarship is one of the most esteemed sporting scholarships Bond University offers. It gives students the opportunity to gain an internationally recognised degree while teaming up with former Wallaby captain John Eales who provides mentorship on and off the field.
Previous recipients include Queensland Reds trio Angus Blyth, Alex Mafi and Spencer Jeans. Dylan Riley was also a beneficiary and has since gone on to represent Japan’s national team the Cherry Blossoms. He now plies his trade with the Panasonic Wild knights in Japan’s domestic League One competition.
Hanna, who always dreamt of attending Bond University, was quickly encouraged to apply for the scholarship last year.
“When I first saw it advertised I wasn’t going to even bother applying for it, but my mum said, ‘why not have a go’. I just didn’t even think it was offered to women originally,” she said.
“But I applied and got a call back saying I was part of the final four and I got called in for an interview and I thought that was as far as I was going to get.
“When I heard the words, ‘we would love to offer you the scholarship’ I just couldn’t contain my excitement. I think I made my mum deaf with how loud I screamed, I was so happy.”
Hanna is studying a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science with the goal to complete her Doctorate of Physiotherapy.
“The dream gig is probably working as a paediatric physio, I did a bit of work with the Queensland Reds working with kids and I found it really interesting and very rewarding,” she said.
On the field Hanna has been putting in strong performances playing in the second row with the Bull Sharks. Bond have won their last three games to be sitting third on the ladder with two rounds remaining until finals.
“We have had our ups and downs, but we are a really strong team culturally and are always there for each other. When we are on we can really play some good footy,” said Hanna.
Bond University’s 15s women’s side is relatively new having begun in 2020 off the back of the Bull Sharks strong 7s program. It has been an adjustment for some of the girls moving into the longer form of the game.
Hanna admits her side isn’t the biggest compared to other premier teams, but that is not an issue for the Bull Sharks.
“That’s okay, we use technique, we use speed and we use what we’ve got and it has been working well so far,” she said.
At just 18 Hanna has already achieved so much but is motivated to strive for more, especially on the rugby field.
“Rugby wise, I’m loving it at Bond but I’m striving for higher honours hopefully with the Reds in the coming years.
“There’s a real pathway now for Bond girls, you only have to look at Madi Schuck and Mel Wilks who have represented the Australian Wallaroos,” she said.
The Premier Women’s side will take on Brothers this week away before playing at home against Easts in the final round game of the season next Saturday.