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For the love of science: Tandia swaps studio for footy field

Trading the ballet studio for the footy field, North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Sports Science Analyst Tandia Wood never imagined she’d be working her dream job alongside elite NRL and NRLW athletes at the tender age of just 25.

Admitting she still feels a strong hint of ‘imposter syndrome’ after only 12 months in what is a key role within the Cowboys high-performance unit, there was once a suggestion Tandia would be a ballet dancer, an art she put 15 years of hard work into.

“I thought that’s what I was going to do, but then I started to get more into training and sport, and the university degree that interested me was exercise sports science,” she said.

“I thought I might go into cardiac science, rehab, more clinical based work but then I did my prac with an Olympic lifting gym and thought, this is really cool, so I started to follow that more.

“I grew up watching rugby league so there’s always been that undertone, but also working with strength and power athletes has been something I’ve always been super interested in.

“I’ve probably done more prac work through my undergrad in strength and conditioning, and I sort of started to notice a disconnect between the practical side and theoretical side so wanted to learn more about sports science and bridge the two.”

Opportunity came calling when her honours and masters supervisor led Tandia to an opening for a PhD student to work with the Cowboys, and she soon found herself employed full time while also completing her PhD.

She is tasked with working through GPS data collected in day-to-day monitoring both on the training field and in the gym, analysing data to manage, plan and monitor training load and match load across all levels of Cowboys athletes.

The role is a perfect match to her studies, with Tandia's PhD finding contextual information surrounding the use of GPS in rugby league.

Known around the football group for her infectious smile and always-positive attitude, Tandia has been nominated as a club role model in the lead-up to NRL Women in League Round.

And with the Cowboys set to enter the 2023 NRLW competition, opportunities to develop and grow the next generation of elite female rugby league players is something that excites Tandia.

“I was definitely all teary when it got announced,” she said.

“I’m getting to know all the girls in Gold Stars who have such beautiful stories about being connected to being up north, and I’m just seeing how much talent is up here and that we need to be able to showcase that.

“It just takes time, and that’s a really hard part about women’s sport, is that it’s gaining a lot of traction but we’re still at this point where they are needing to hold full time jobs and all of that life stuff which is so challenging.

“I think now that women are becoming much more athletic and skills are increasing, viewership is increasing and it’s a more enjoyable game to watch so it’s slowly getting that traction and people are buying more into it.

“But if we look back to the men’s game however many years ago now, it was the same; it just takes time to grow that, but I love to see it growing at such a pace.”

Now in its 16th year, NRL Women in League Round celebrates the contribution women make to rugby league, and those who are playing their part to create a more equal future at all levels of the game in Australia.

The Cowboys will celebrate Women in League at their Round 19 home game against Wests Tigers on Sunday, ahead of the official round the following week – tickets available through

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North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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