Reni Maitua has experienced the good and bad of rugby league – now he wants to help the next generation avoid repeating the mistakes he has made.
Once one of the NRL’s bad boys, the 34-year old has ridden the highest of highs and lowest and lows of the footy rollercoaster. He won a grand final in his first year of first-grade with the Bulldogs and played for Australia two years later, before being suspended for two seasons after he tested positive for a banned substance.
The Bra Boys gang member rebuilt his career, returned to the NRL in 2011 and went on to represent Samoa in the 2013 World Cup. Maitua has also battled depression, attempting suicide three years ago, and been involved in several off-field incidents.
Maitua revealed to Love Rugby League that he is considering a number of options for life after he hangs up his boots.
“I’ve done some player welfare courses, I went back to college this year and did a three month counseling course in Preston,” he said.
“I’m just trying to stay in the game in some capacity. I’ve been in the game since I was four years old and I’d love to help out younger players and maybe one day go into a coaching role.
“Nothing’s concrete, I’d love to work back at the Bulldogs or something like that where it all started and try and see where everything leads me.”
A matured and much wiser Maitua is also interested in exploring the media side of the game.
“I did a short stint with Channel 7 before I left to come over to England,” he explained.
“I just did a few interviews here and there and it’s something I could be interested in. I know the game; I’ve been playing a long time.
“I’d love to maybe some sort of panelist or analyst of the game one day, [but] I’m a long way off that though and I’ll probably get a few tattoos removed before I put my mug on television. But yeah it’s something I’m very keen on.
“I know some great people in the television industry and you never know what’s down the track. I definitely wouldn’t knock it back if something like that came along.”
Maitua said his 2004 premiership with Canterbury and his rep jerseys for the Kangaroos and Toa Samoa stand out as career highlights, but more so the friends he has made through his time in the sport.
“It sounds like a bit of a cliché but the people I’ve met along the way, I’ve met a lot of friends here as well,” the back-rower said.
“I never thought I’d end up on this side of the world, being able to see different parts of Europe as well. I’m just very appreciative of the opportunity I’ve got.
“I got a lot of success early and had a few tough years but the game has always been very supportive of me and my family.
“I wouldn’t have been in the position I’m in if it wasn’t for the game. I never started playing thinking that one day I would be making a career out of it.
“I’m pretty thankful for that.”