She has already represented New Zealand teams in two sports, been named in a paper side for a third, and is a former junior national champion in a fourth.
So expect year 13 Gisborne Girls’ High School athlete Renee Holmes to make a big impression on the national stage in her fifth sport over the next several weeks when she plays for the Hawke’s Bay Tuis in the women’s rugby NPC.
If selected, Renee will line up in the midfield for the Tuis against the Wellington Pride in Saturday’s opening Farah Palmer Cup match at Porirua Park.
“That will be a big game, I’m pretty excited and I have got two pre-season games under my belt now so hopefully I won’t be too nervous.”
Renee needn’t be nervous. On Saturday she scored two tries, including a 60-metre effort in beating six players, in Hawke’s Bay’s 79-5 NPC warm-up win against the Wellington Samoan women’s team.
Last week she was awarded the Women’s MVP accolade at the Hastings Rugby and Sports Club end of season senior prizegiving, after finishing top points scorer for the team in her first full season of rugby.
Renee also recently captained her GGHS team to victory in the Hawkes Bay Secondary Schools competition against Hastings Girls’ High School, scoring a try and kicking two conversions in the 19-15 win.
Renee has been making the regular two and a half to three hour commute between Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay all season.
“I travel down to Hastings every Wednesday for training and then again for game day on Saturdays,” she explained. “My dad does the driving; he is willing to do the hard yards with me which is really cool.”
She has also been named as one of three Gisborne players out of 120 girls selected in the inaugural New Zealand U17 and U18 sevens development camp and trials coming up in October.
Renee is relatively new to rugby, but has a wealth of experience playing other sports that more than makes up for it.
She played National League football for the NZ U17 Girls side in 2015, and was twice asked to play for Central Football but withdrew before the season started.
“I played football before rugby, which I only just started playing last year.”
“I was really big on football and I moved to Auckland and to Massey High School in year 11. I was a holding midfielder or a fullback and I played for the New Zealand U17s in the National Women’s league.”
But the pull of family and home drew her back to Gisborne. “I have a little brother and my connection with him is really strong and it was really hard being away from and my dad. I realised that I wanted to be back in Gisborne to do my schooling here and be here around them while I can before I get older and find other opportunities elsewhere again.”
“Football wasn’t really strong enough here and I wasn’t allowed to play with the boys so once back home I gave rugby a go and I love playing that now!”
Renee started playing sevens rugby in early 2016 for her GGHS school team. They went to the Condors in Auckland in December. She started playing 15s rugby at the start of 2017. “There’s no women’s rugby in Gisborne, so I started playing club rugby down in Hawke’s Bay.”
As well as football and rugby, there’s also ultimate, kiorahi and taekwondo in her sporting catalogue.
Last year Renee was also the top point scorer at the U20 Women Ultimate World Champs in Poland. She scored 42 times in 8 games for New Zealand Kahu and was named runner-up MVP for the tournament to the Colombian captain, out of 900 athletes competing.
“When I was at school we picked up a team to compete at an ultimate tournament and went away, competed and I got asked to play in an Auckland regional team [no Gisborne team] and then made the New Zealand team. That was a long, hard-working campaign, but it paid off as we finished fifth after being ranked 21 going into the tournament.”
She was selected for New Zealand again this year, but had to decline because of her rugby commitments.
This year Renee was also named in the New Zealand kiorahi secondary schools team after her GGHS team finished third at the national tournament in Papakura. Although at this stage that team is a paper-based side, Renee hopes they can organise some trans-Tasman competition and that she will then have the time to compete.
She is also a former national WTF taekwondo champion, winning that title while she was still at primary school.
“That’s where I started off. I haven’t competed for a while now, but that was pretty much my thing when I was young and my passion for sport started from that.”
Coming from Gisborne, she also enjoys surfing and other sports. “I love surfing, but I just do that for fun and as my getaway from other sports. Lots of Gisborne girls also do waka ama but they train two-three times a day and I don’t have much time for that.”
Renee has enough on her sporting plate – but she loves it.
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