Reni Maitua has had an amazing professional Rugby League career which included a premiership in his debut season at the Canterbury Bulldogs, representing both Australia & Samoa and a career which spun over 200 games across Australia and the UK.
He shares an amazing connection with Bulldogs fans ask any of them and they only speak highly of Reni and his football ability and role within the team and the unique Bulldog's culture.
Reni has had quite the journey in his teens he gave up the game before an opportunity through his close friend Braith Anasta brought him to the Bulldogs and much success particularly early in his career.
For all the high lights there was some major adversity as well, a major injury while debuting for Australia, a suspension for recreational drug use and an attempt to take his own life.
What I enjoyed about Reni was his ability to take responsibility. He acknowledges his own mistakes but is also on a great road now to inspire and educated others through his own life experiences.
As with most of my podcasts while a major talking point is sport we find out that life is so much more. The podcast with Reni is a very open and honest chat about his life experiences so far. There are some great takeaways and learning opportunities. I encourage you to listen to the entire episode below or continue for my key takeaways and stories from our power chat.
"The sacrifices that Dad made and Mum, she was working two jobs. I was living in housing commission but I didn’t know any different. I always had the best of everything it wasn’t till later in life that you appreciate how hard they worked for us to live a better life than they had and sacrifices they make for their kids"
PNG TRIP & GRATITUDE
“We take things for granted, they don’t know any different, they’ve always got a smile on their face and always really happy, you come back to Sydney and get annoyed over a little bit of traffic. It was the perfect time in my life to go there. I was stressed out over work and the transition from rugby league but to see how they lived I came back with a lot of gratitude and want to get on board in this space and hopefully get back next year”
FINDING HIS WAY TO CANTERBURY
"I played right through till I was 15 then gave the game away for a few years. It wasn’t till I was 19 and finished school and doing an apprenticeship that I realised I could probably make a living out of Rugby League. I remember it like it was yesterday. Canterbury was playing Manly and Braith was tagged as the next Brad Fittler. He set up 4 tries and scored one. I’m sitting in front of the TV, second year into my plumbing apprenticeship sipping on a VB and I said you know what I don’t think plumbing is for me I’m going to give Rugby League another crack"
CULTURE AT THE BULLDOGS
“The culture at the club, the training, it still gives me night mares. I thought I knew what training was till I signed with Canterbury, it nearly broke me a few times and I thought of giving up a few times. What got me through was pride, what it was going to take to be a first grade player. It was myself, Johnathan Thurston, Roy Asotasi Sonny Bill in the rookies squad, we were potential players to play first grade and we created that brother hood. There was 10 of us and we would do extra sessions on a Saturday, within 3 years we won an NRL premiership”
THE FIRST GRADE DEBUT
"Originally I wasn’t even meant to play in the first game of round 1 2004. Glen Hughes tore his hamstring the day before the game I was called in by Steve Folkes. I didn’t lose my spot I kept some veterans out for the whole season"
LESSONS FROM STEVE PRICE
"Steve Price said don’t stuff this opportunity up because it will be over before you know it. Now I’m sitting here at 35 and it’s all done, I wasn’t good with my money I’m lucky to get out of the game with at least one apartment. I treat the next part of life as I did football to have a good frame of mind and put in and work hard at it and one day have a family and provide for my kids"
STARTING THE GRAND FINAL
“The nerves really kicked in when Steve Price got injured in the semi-final the week before and got ruled out. Steve Folkes pulled me aside, I expected Sonny Bill to start the game and he said I’m going to give you the duty of starting a Grand Final. I was on the right edge but got stuck in the middle the first 20 minutes I made 25 tackles. I don’t remember a hell of a lot of the game. I remember running out, the rain, I looked up in the stand looking for my family and I had tears running down my face. I remember how intense the game was, I remember looking at Brad Fittler who was one of my heroes. I have Adrian Morely running at me, I’m 21 year old kid playing in a Grand Final it’s hard to explain the feeling of winning the premiership. When the hooter went, it was such a surreal feeling. All of us on the bench, I came off with 5 minutes to go. We all embraced on the bench. I’d known Braith since I was 5 and he was the first person I looked for and ran across the field gave him a big hug and told him I loved him.”
“There was a lot of things in my life especially the suspension; it was 12 months after I was suspended for taking recreational drugs that was cut with a performance enhancer. I didn’t speak publicly about it was a huge disrespect to my family especially my Polynesian Father so I just wanted to get out of the bubble of Sydney and sort of hide. Rugby League was becoming a chore, I wasn’t passionate about it. I tell people it was sort of a blessing in disguise. I honestly believe I was meant to get caught. It was the only time I did it during a Rugby League season and I got caught, we’ve all got a path in life and I was meant to get caught at that time. Now I speak to the kids about the potential dangers and what they are going to be in for during their careers and outside influences and give them some of my life lessons”
“There was some of my closes friends who doubted me and thought I’d never make it back on the field. That was probably my driving motivation to prove them wrong. I was in my late 20’s when I got suspended. I spent an eleven month period where I was working as a life guard and I wasn’t overly excited about coming back to the game. I was sitting on the internet one day & I saw this Tiger Muay Thai camp in Thailand and I thought I’ll give this a crack. I went over sat in a jungle for 5 weeks, trained three times a day, 6 days a week. Fittest I’ve ever been, so I came back rang my manager and said find me a club”
“Brad Arthur is a very honest, straight down the line. He will tell you what’s on his mind. He’s not one of those coaches who will play mind games, he will tell you straight. He’s someone I became extremely close to and keep in touch whenever I can, I’ve watched his kids grow up. Brad’s turned that club right around they had a great season in 2017 and could potentially win the comp in 2018”
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THE BUBBLE OF SYDNEY
"I find we live in this bubble in Sydney with Rugby League and it wasn’t until I played in England that I found there was so much more to life. Parts of Europe and the history and I wished I had travelled earlier. It wasn’t till I went away that I appreciated there was more to life. It’s all about balance, If you don’t have balance it can consumer you or get caught up. It’s a dangerous game it’s all about having good mentors and balance"
TRANSITION FROM RUGBY LEAGUE
“It was extremely hard being over in England the past couple of years it was really hard to network. I came back to Australia and there was nothing in the pipeline through no one’s fault but my own. I had no education throughout my career which the NRL did provide. I knew it was going to tough and accepted that life isn’t about handouts so I picked up the shovel and went to labouring with John Sutton’s old man for a couple of months. It was good to be outdoors, around good friends and to rip in and not take stress home. Eventually things turned out quite well, a lot of people let the stress of retirement get to them. I always had the attitude to accept it for what it was and something would come along and work itself out”
THE MOVE TO PRO BOXING
“To have my first professional fight, I've always loved boxing and I don't want to disrespect sport at all. I've been approached, I’ve trained boxing for the last 10 years but I definitely wouldn't say that I'm a boxer. I had two sessions with Billy Hussein and there was a lot of mistakes especially with my foot work. I got a lot of anxiety build up at the moment. It’s a box I wanted to tick, I have much respect for fighters anyone who can step in there I have huge huge respect for. The training regime will be tough but I need to know what sort of heart I’ve got and what I’m made of”
There were so many great takeaways from the podcast. Information share is the key to growth particularly around vulnerability. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Reni to so openly share some of the mistakes he has made in his life but I thank him as there was so much to learn.
Be sure to continue to follow Reni on his journey. Get your tickets to his professional boxing debut which is on Saturday 3rd February at Hurstville Entertainment Centre. Table tickets are $250 per person (3 course meal, beer and wine) while general admission is $70 a ticket. Email Reni at firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets
Continue to follow Reni on his journey:
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