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For Waitaki Girls’ High School pupil Taneisha Fifita, receiving a Tania Dalton Foundation scholarship will not only help her family financially, but will give her an opportunity to be mentored by former Silver Fern Donna Wilkins.

It has been two years since Silver Ferns great Tania Dalton died, but her legacy is living on through her foundation. Twelve promising sportswomen from around the country were awarded scholarships into her programme this week.

Fifita is one of this year’s scholarship winners, receiving $15,000 of financial support as well as mentoring by Wilkins over three years. Her scholarship funders are Greg, Jill and Claire Magness.

Fifita travelled to Auckland on Monday night for the special announcement, meeting the other 11 scholarship recipients and Dalton’s husband, and foundation founder, Duane Dalton.

Meeting other rising sports stars and being in Dalton’s legacy was a special experience, Fifita said.

“I was so excited and overwhelmed – it was really nice,” she said.

While she had never met Dalton, Fifita said she felt a strong connection to her through her involvement as a Southern Steel training partner and a member of the Netball South Beko team.

Dalton played in the championship-winning Southern Sting from 2002 to 2006 and made brief comebacks in the ANZ Championship in 2008 and 2011 playing for the Southern Steel.

Fifita, who made her ANZ premiership debut for the Southern Steel last year, works hard to fit in her school commitments and travel from Oamaru to Dunedin at least twice a week to train and play netball. A large part of her scholarship money will go towards travel costs – to training and games in Dunedin and tournaments across the country.

This season, the talented 18-year-old’s goals are to win the Beko Netball League with Netball South, and make the New Zealand Secondary Schools netball team for a second year. It is also her dream to one day play for the Silver Ferns.

Tania Dalton Foundation founder Duane Dalton said the scholarship programme supported talented young sportswomen from all kinds of circumstances and at different stages of their development.

“The programme wraps a pastoral blanket around these incredible young women, so that they can make the right decisions now for their future,” he said.

“They have such great potential, and these really are the crucial years to ensure they make the most of that.”

The scholarship recipients are involved with sports with which Dalton and her family had a strong bond, including netball, tennis, rugby, touch, sevens, surf life-saving and basketball.

Mentors involved in the scholarship programme are well-known and respected friends and colleagues of Dalton’s from a range of disciplines including sports, business, finance and media.

“Following Tania’s footsteps, we’re encouraging these girls to see themselves as future role models and leaders in their communities, finding ways to work alongside and inspire them to realise their ultimate dreams – and we’ve had great success in our first year, with two of our original scholarship recipients making the selections for the Black Ferns Sevens development squad,” Dalton said.