Vincent Rennie - Cook Islands
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your rugby journey?
My name is Vincent Rennie. I play rugby league for the Newtown Jets in the NSW Cup competition and for the Cook Islands national squad.
I was born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand. I started playing rugby at the age of 5 for the Pakuranga Jaguars in Auckland and moved to the Otahuhu Leopards when I was 7. When I was 16, I moved to Brisbane in Australia to try and further myself. I was not the best player growing up and tried to work as hard as I could to improve. I attended the rugby league school Wavell State High where I tried to learn as much as I could. My schoolteachers Dave Porter and Marc Brentnall really helped me develop into a decent player along with my club coach Shane Sheperdson at Wests Panthers.
After playing in Melbourne (in the Holden Cup U20s competition) and then moving to Sydney to play in NSW Cup competition for Canterbury Bulldogs, at the end of the 2015 season I was selected to play for the Cook Islands in my first Test Match against Tonga.
It was actually by luck that I was chosen for the team. I was working in a gym and one of the selectors/assistant coaches was doing a session there. We knew each other and he invited me to a training session for Sydney based Cook Islanders. I did enough in the session to be invited into the squad and I put my best foot forward during camp to be selected.
I then went to England in 2016 when I became eligible for a sports visa. I went with my then girlfriend (now wife) Alex and son Milan to Newcastle, where I spent 3 years and absolutely loved my time there. I made friends and family for life and really enjoyed the city. In 2019 we made the move back to Sydney as my younger brother Reubenn, who is also in the Cook Islands squad, started his own family so I wanted to be closer to them. I played for Mounties for three years before signing to Newtown for the 2022 season and in between played three more Test Matches and two games at the World Cup Nines tournament.
What does rugby league and playing for Cook Islands mean to you?
Playing for the Cook Islands is probably the pinnacle of my career. One, being only a small nation, it is an honour to play for my people. Two, being a role model for young Cook Islander kids growing up makes it that much more special. And three, being of Cook Islander and Māori decent from New Zealand, I always grew up entrenched in my Māori culture and did not find out about much of my Cook Islander side until I was older. But I feel a deep connection to my people and land, especially when I am on the field.
Both of my parents were born and raised in New Zealand, but my dad’s father was born in the Cook Islands and moved to New Zealand when he was a young adult.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with any of the photos?
A lot of my photos are with my brother and family as they are a big part of my sporting life. My three sons and wife are the main reason I keep playing. My brother and I are part-time players and work full-time jobs.
I run my own business in scaffolding here in Sydney. I enjoy my job because it keeps me outside and moving and I also get to see and work in some cool places. The people I work with are pretty close to me like my brother and two boys we usually work with - Josh and Niko. Our whole crew including our main employer are from New Zealand, so it makes work a lot easier especially with a crew that we all get along with.
Ever since finishing school I always worked with my brother. When we were living in Melbourne, when we moved to Sydney, and when I moved back from the UK. We have done pretty much everything together from working to playing football and raising our families together.
In the Newtown polo you can see my brother and fellow Cook Islands player Kayal Iro, who has been outstanding for us and recently won Player of the Year. He is also the son of the great Kevin Iro and nephew to our coach Tony Iro.
The group of kids and the person in the grey hoodie (Mohd Roache) are part of a group called MCR that I train with during the off season. I can credit a lot of my career to Mohd – he helped me to love playing again and get fit.
What does rugby league mean to you and your community?
Rugby league plays a huge part in our community – and not only in Australia and New Zealand. In the Cook Islander community, it is an outlet for our young people to express themselves and eventually a way for a lot of them to support themselves and their families. It can also be an opportunity to travel the world doing what they love.
I appreciate moments like being in camp with the Cook Islands team and going away. The only thing I miss is being away from my family for long periods of time. My wife and kids are really important to me, but they are the reason why I strive to be the best rugby league player I can be.
What ambitions do you have for the future?
My ambition for the future is just to enjoy every moment given to me. Whether that be for the Cook Islands team or my club team. I want to be present in the moment, to be able to help younger players, and share different experiences in my journey with them that will hopefully help them in their career.
What do you think the future looks like for rugby league after the RLWC? What would you like to change?
The future looks very exciting. Smaller nations are starting to have more high-profile players put their hand up to play for them, which can only benefit the international game. Young stars coming through are now being attracted to play for their heritage.
The only thing I would like to change is the eligibility laws. Currently I am the last of my family who can play for the Cook Islands. My sons are not eligible in the future as it goes back as far as a grandparent born there to be eligible, but both my parents were born in New Zealand.
You should not have to have a grandparent born there to tell you that you are a Cook Islander. It runs through your veins as a person. I just hope for the best for my country and people in the future.