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Māori & Pasifika Graduate Profiles

Marrin Haggie

Master of Sport Science 

Marrin Haggie

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Leaving the island

“I think you’re the first Māori to gain a Master's of Sport Science from Wintec.” Marrin Haggie, 35, heard these words from Dr Peter Maulder, and thought “there needs to be more”. Peter was Marrin’s supervisor on his Wintec master’s degree, which he received with distinction in 2013.

“It was quite an honour,” Marrin says. “[But] it’s quite lonely. It is still quite lonely.”

Marrin now works as a full time staff member at Wintec's Centre for Sport Science and Human Performance. This ground-breaking achievement is a motivator for Marrin as he hopes other Māori students will graduate from Wintec in the same field as he did.

“I’m looking forward to them graduating and hopefully some of them go on to do masters, so I’m not rowing this waka by myself! Because when you’re rowing a waka by yourself, you go round in circles,” he jokes.

Marrin had a natural inclination towards sport from a young age. He enjoyed the science-based subjects but knew ultimately they weren’t for him. Trent Oliver was a Wintec graduate, working as the sports coordinator at Ngāruawāhia High School when Marrin was a student there. Trent suggested to Marrin and a few others that they study sports science at Wintec. He brought them in to do some VO2 Max testing and the group of students was amazed.

“We just went, wow, we’re here,” Marrin said.

Two of the students ended up enrolling in what was then called the School of Sports Science, Marrin and his best friend, Heremaia Samson. The two young men from Ngāruawāhia didn’t need to travel far from home to complete their bachelor’s degrees.

“Heremaia and I did it together and helped each other through it, and we also got support from the really close mates we formed through Wintec.”

Marrin’s goal was to gain a degree and to “get myself off the island”.

“I always wanted to leave the island and go around the world. I realised that, jeez, a sports science degree can help me in that endeavour, but also make me a better footy player,” Marrin says.

He has been involved with rugby league since the age of five, and has played in countries around the word including Japan, the US and Australia. The ideal for Marrin was to leave New Zealand to play rugby league somewhere different and use his bachelor’s degree for work, which he managed to succeed in doing.

“The goal was to graduate and use the degree to seek gainful employment.”

After playing rugby league for a few clubs in Australia, Marrin came home at the end of 2010 and decided a bachelor of sports exercise science wasn’t enough.

“Degrees were a dime a dozen, I just needed to strengthen those letters behind my name.”

He spoke with his partner, Megan, and they decided he would enrol in a Postgraduate Diploma in Sport and Exercise Science. The diploma took two years, and straight after he completed it Marrin enrolled in the master’s degree. He describes his master’s graduation as a very humbling experience. The support from his grandparents and parents was overwhelming.

“Knowing you’ve got that support from family is huge, man. I will say that being shown that admira¬tion from my father and grandfather was something else, considering I’ve looked up to them both for a while. And I’m not ashamed to admit that my eyes started to sweat a little bit. It’s little bit emotional thinking about that now actually,” he says.

Extended family turned out to the marae gradua¬tion in support of Marrin, and the Māori King, Tuheitia Paki, was present at the event.

“Coming from a family in Ngāruawāhia who are very staunch supporters of the Kīngitanga, being able to receive my masters in front of him was quite awesome.”

The marae graduation had further significance as Marrin was asked to be the student speaker. Marrin’s aunt is a master weaver; she weaves korowai and offered him one of her creations to wear on graduation day. Six foot four Marrin wore the long korowai made from kiwi feathers in the heated month of March. In dress pants, a shirt, tie, graduation cloak and korowai he says he was lucky to be in the shade that day.

“Stubbornness is the thing that has got me to achieve what I have, I’m quite stubborn. It was different for the masters, [because] as an undergrad I was young, with no kids. Now I had my three kids, I had to do it. My drive and determination was my kids and my partner Megan. I was doing it for them.”

For Marrin, having his master’s degree meant he was more employable, and this meant better earning potential. And better earnings meant a better life for his three children. Marrin currently plays fullback or centre for the Ngāruawāhia Rugby League Premiers and has been involved with the club since the age of five.

He has played all over the world but “my heart’s black with a white v on it. I bleed black and white, man”.

He says his strong cultural side has helped him to achieve his goals in sporting and academia.

“I didn’t realise this till I was well into my late 20s that for a lot of Māori students, those that are culturally grounded and know who they are, where they come from, a lot of those people tend to do quite well,” he says.

His advice: “Don’t forget where you come from and don’t forget your mates and your family, because if you forget those people that helped you along the way then you might forget yourself.”