FEMALE rugby player Winne Della – Rene is a member of the Renegades rugby team and has been playing the sport for the past six years after crossing over from Under 23 Netball in 2014.
Rene is a former student of the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School (CCSS); Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) and Monroe College Institute of Hospitality.
The 25-year-old who was born and raised in the community of Millet made her regional debut at the North America and Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) tournament which was held in Mexico in 2014.
The VOICE spoke to Rene about her rugby journey thus far and more.
“I am currently unemployed and looking for a job. “I have always been an athlete and at orientation at CCSS I signed up for rugby but I never saw any rugby activities during school hours. I developed a friendship with the daughter (Chyenne) of Colvis Samuels (the former president of the Saint Lucia Rugby Football Union) who, along with her father constantly begged me to join the sport. But being preoccupied with netball I never had the chance to try it out and finally after Saint Lucia won the OECS Under-23 netball championship in 2014 I called Chyenne up and gave it a shot,” she said.
She added, “The very first day I got knocked in the mouth and recalled calling Tommy saying, “Your wife hit me” but when I got home I realised how free flowing, relaxed and welcomed I felt and knew that I had found the next best thing in the world of sports”.
“It’s one of the sports which is like another family unit outside your normal family and you gain something meaningful from those different individuals,” Rene said.
She said she is not looking to beat any local team, reason being at the end of the day all have to come together for nationals and see the bigger picture, where their rivals are Mexico and Jamaica, her biggest rivals.
“I am looking forward to becoming a certified Community Disaster Response Team member of Saint Lucia Red Cross as well as being one of the Saint Lucia Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) developmental coaches for the Under 19 female rugby players and earlier this year (February 2020) I completed a bartending course,” Rene said about her achievements on and off the field.
She currently assists with the national youth players both in the north and south of the island specifically the females between the ages of 12-17 years old using the “Get into Rugby modules”.
With reference to her dreams she said, “Wouldn’t say I am qualified in anything really besides bartending but it’s not my true passion. I want to pursue a degree in either nursing or Sports Recreation and Management.”
She said, the future for women rugby in Saint Lucia is extremely bright, with the calibre of youth crossing over from track and field and netball, combined with senior women.
According to her with the knowledge, skills, experience, youth, speed, raw talent and power available in saint Lucia, and once the present senior players and incoming female players could mesh together, and stick with the programme, saint Lucia could be one of the top contenders in rugby within the region in a few years.
Rugby, she says, has helped her in creating long lasting friendships, and experiencing different cultures while meeting new people.
“Also, it has instilled in me this family oriented base where everyone looks out for the other. I am a better person today for having met some of the individuals I’ve met through rugby,” she said.
“My mom, Veronica Rene has been my biggest fan throughout all my sporting activities from infant school up until now. My siblings, they do support me but some of them are perhaps trapped inside this stereotype minded thinking of the sport,” she said.
Rene said she wants to be at a point where she can give back to other struggling athletes and also help create avenues for them through scholarships, or going professional. She is all about giving them options and having the right individuals within their circle to push them forward.
“Since I am completing the Level 2 Certification in rugby, I am pushing myself in the direction to help shape and mold the youths who are joining rugby,” she said.
In terms of advice to young females who want to play the sport, Rene said, “They should just dive right in and give the sport a chance and don’t let all the preconceived thoughts or stereotype of the sport being rough, prevent them from getting a feel of it for themselves.
“You may never know if you will enjoy it, unless you try it yourself,” she said.
As customary, the VOICE spoke to SLRFU Technical Director, Wayne Pantor about Rene. This is what he had to say:
“She is one of the line breakers/ play maker, a very solid player. She attacks the opposition once she see’s the opportunity”.
“At present she is pursuing her Certification at Level 2 coaching as she aims to be a future coach for the Under 19 national girls’ team”.
“Rene can be considered a utility player as she can play in different positions, scrum half, forward, flyhalf or centre in the 7s and 10s format of the game”