Massey PhD student nailing The Block NZ


Freelance designer Stace Cottrill and sport science PhD student Yanita McLeay make up Team Orange on The Block NZ.



The best friends are loving being on the DIY show.

Sport science PhD student Yanita McLeay has temporarily given up her student lifestyle in Palmerston North to renovate a house in Auckland, on national television.

The 29-year-old has paired up with her best friend and freelance designer Stace Cottrill on The Block NZ, as this year’s Team Orange, with the hope of walking away with any profit their house makes when it is sold at the end of the season.

Ms McLeay’s studies have been put on hold for three months while the show is filmed. “There is no way I would be able to continue my studies during this time – some weeks we are clocking only two to three hours of sleep a night and the trials and tribulations of renovating uses up most of my brain power these days!”

But she is loving her first go at DIY. “The Block is an experience like no other and is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. It is physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging and pushes you to your absolute limits. I am really lucky to have a stellar teammate, and a really strong support network, who remind me during the hard times that it is just a game! I am also really grateful for the opportunity to do this and know I will walk away with incredible memories and probably as a much stronger person.”

Her PhD focuses on the effects of a novel protein (keratin) on antioxidant status and performance in endurance-trained cyclists.  “Within the body Keratin metabolises to two crucial antioxidants which may help to reduce exercise-induced rises in free radicals. This has the potential to mitigate free-radical associated fatigue, improving performance. I have a real interest in human physiology and a passion for health and fitness, so it was only fitting that I chose the field of sport science/nutrition,” she says.

“Prior to being on The Block I was a full-time student, working temp jobs for Massey. Once filming wraps up, I will go back to being a full-time student, as my thesis is due in December. It’s going to be crunch time!”

The former Whanganui Collegiate student says Massey has been really accommodating by allowing her to put her studies on hold. “I am also really lucky to have supervisors that not only understand, but who are really supporting me in this venture.

“My parents and siblings are my number one supporters - I could not get through this experience without their support, and my partner has also been absolute gold during this time. He’s keen to help out in any way he can, even though he is six hours drive away with a broken ankle!”

You can catch Yanita on The Block NZ, Sunday at 7pm, and Mon-Wed 7.30pm on Three.

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