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Rance pulls stumps on pro career

“I never once thought that I would play for New Zealand, and to be able to do it while living in Wairarapa … that’s the ultimate for me.”

Representing New Zealand is just one of many highlights for Seth Rance, who has called time on his professional cricketing career, which started for the Central Stags [CD] in 2009 in a four-day Plunket Shield match against Wellington in Napier.

That match motivated the then-21-year-old medium-fast bowler to prove he could succeed without leaving his beloved Greytown club and Wairarapa rep team.

“After my first game, to be told that basically, I had to move to make it and then to use that as a motivator to push me through some pretty hard times with injuries over the years and not to have to move away has hopefully inspired kids in any sport that you don’t necessarily have to move away, and that was my biggest driver,” Rance said.

The fact that Rance achieved what he did while based in Wairarapa, one of New Zealand’s smallest cricket districts, is not lost on one of his former Stags and Black Cap teammates, Ross Taylor, who knows all about the pressures of moving from Wairarapa to a bigger district to pursue their cricketing ambitions.

“To have played as long as he did and to have stayed in Wairarapa the whole time cannot be underestimated,” Taylor said.

“Myself and a lot of people had to leave to get opportunities but he stayed and was loyal and still played for New Zealand, and to still do all his fire brigade and family stuff is a great story.”

Wairarapa Cricket general manager Simon Roseingrave also believes Rance’s achievements deserve to be lauded and held up as an example for any promising sportsperson.

“He’s been the shining light within the district, playing at a level many aspire to and not many reach, and has really been held up as a prime example of someone who can be based in one of the smaller regions but still can be highly successful,” Roseingrave said.

“We know how passionate he is about Greytown and Wairarapa cricket in general, and really someone we can look proud of as a district for his long career with CD and with opportunities he received with the Black Caps as well. He’s got a drive and determination that we all should aspire to.”

Rance’s retirement comes as no surprise after he missed the entire 2023–24 domestic season for CD after undergoing major corrective surgery for a rare shoulder injury suffered in the warmup to the Stags T20 Super Smash clash with the Wellington Firebirds at Fitzherbert Park, Palmerston North in December 2022.

“Deep down, I’ve known for a while, and at 36, it’s not favourable to come back, and I made the decision at the back end of the rep season. It’s obviously still a shock when you’ve played for so long and the realisation that when you make that call, that’s it,” Rance said.

“Injury was the main driver. At the time, I was the top wicket-taker, and I was bowling as well as I had been in a few years.

“I knew the end was a few seasons away, but probably not as soon as this, but with the three kids, it was getting harder and harder being away, and I was missing out on a lot of family things. Looking back, I’m
quite happy to have made the decision not to resume it.

“I’m really, really happy with what I achieved. I feel I don’t have anything left to prove to anyone, and yes, it would have been nice to have had 50 games for the Black Caps and play for years and years, but to get 10 games that I did, I couldn’t be prouder.”

Although there have been countless highlights throughout his career, Rance rates taking 9–26 for Wairarapa in a Furlong Cup victory over Whanganui in October 2022 as one that sits near the top of the list.

“There have been heaps, but more recently, to get nine wickets for Wairarapa might sound funny, and yes, it was only a rep game, but I was coming off an injury, and I had done a lot of hard work to get on to the park and to contribute there and have that success was really good.”

Debuting for New Zealand against Ireland in Dublin in 2017, with his family and many of his friends from Wairarapa flying over for the occasion, taking 3–30 on his T20 debut against the West Indies in Nelson, winning the national T20 championship to qualify for the Champions League in South Africa, and taking 3–33 in trying conditions against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, are just some of the many other highlights.

At his peak, Rance was one of the most feared bowlers on the New Zealand scene, whether opening the bowling or being thrust the duties in the death overs of a List A or T20 match.

“He transformed himself from a young guy with hair [he is now bald] and probably a death specialist when CD won a few T20 tournaments to the new ball with massive inswing that was a nightmare for openers to face not only at domestic level but international level as well,” Taylor said.

“Certainly, at domestic level, getting through Seth Rance would’ve been the main priority for a lot of domestic teams.”

Rance played two ODIs, taking 1–44 against Ireland, and played eight T20 internationals, taking 10 wickets with a best of 3–26 against Pakistan, with a respectable economy rate of 9.07 runs per over.

However, it was the domestic scene where Rance stood out as one of the best of the past 15 years.

He captured 152 wickets at an average of 27.55 with a best haul of 6–26 in his 49 first-class games, 114 wickets at 23.91, with a best of 4–25 and an economy rate of 4.97 in 72 List A games, and 102 wickets at an exceptional average of 22.44, with a best of 5–19, an economy rate of 8.10 and an outstanding strike rate of a wicket every 16.6 balls in 83 T20 appearances for the Stags.

Taylor said that it wasn’t just his talent with the ball and competitive nature that made Rance a great teammate to have around.

“He was hard case. Cricket can be pretty tiresome at times; he’d always put a smile, not only on a teammate’s face but also the opposition’s face.”

Rance reckoned he could not have achieved the success without the immense support he has had from his family at home, and he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife Suzannah and kids Harper [4], Baxter [6], and Lachie [8], but he has no intention of giving cricket away.

“I still have a huge desire to play for Wairarapa and see us succeed, and my overall goal is to play with my kids one day, whether that’s for Greytown or Wairarapa, so that’s my driver now.”

He is also relishing the chance to get back on the football field for Douglas Villa Skulls in the Wairarapa Local League Division One, and then there’s his role as Greytown Volunteer Fire Brigade chief to fulfil.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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