BY MARGOT BUTCHER - REPUBLISHED FROM OUTRIGHT #48
Cricket might be one of the few arenas in which compartmentalising is viewed as a positive life skill. For Seth Rance, it’s essential.
For instance, there was that day over the Christmas period this summer when he turned up to Central Stags training fresh off having dealt with a motor vehicle accident the previous day in which a person lost their life.
“The guys, I don’t think they realise. They have no idea that you have that in the back of your mind - and that’s good in the sense that cricket is its own little world, and that helps take your mind off things.”
Rance, 34, is a longtime volunteer firefighter in his home town of Greytown, Wairarapa. He went down to the station when he was 16 - the minimum age - to ask if he could join, and has been off on callouts at all hours almost ever since.
Recently, he was one of the youngest in New Zealand appointed to be a Senior Station Officer — a role that brings added responsibility. And while it’s not all taking kids for rides on the firetruck and rescuing cats in trees, that compartmentalisation can be a useful two-way street for sport, as well.
“If I’m not playing as well as I want to or I haven’t had the greatest game, when I go back to Greytown life, it can be a nice distraction.
“That’s part of why I like living here. I get a complete chance to get away from the pressures of cricket, have that balance and break with family, and other things in my life — and I’m always busy.”
Being a professional cricketer in Greytown means a home game is never at home. Even by CD standards, Rance clocks up a fair few travel miles, as one of the only Stags outside the team’s Hawke’s Bay epicentre.
But juggling a busy life and time management skills were things he learnt early.
At 18, Rance went straight from high school into a building apprenticeship — a bonus from having volunteered himself as a firefighter. One of the officers in the brigade was in the trade, and offered to take him on.
“It turned out to be a good option for me in several different ways,” Rance reflects.
“I loved my sport, but I had injuries, and playing cricket professionally came along a bit later for me, in my case. I did my ankle, and then my shoulder. That put me out for about three years in my early 20s, so that’s when I finished my building apprenticeship. The positive side of it is that it allowed me to settle into Greytown life and get a career behind me, without cricket being there.”
Of course, if someone had told him then not to worry, he was going to go on and have a significant cricket career regardless and play 10 international matches for the BLACKCAPS, he might not have quite believed them.
But, he eventually cracked the Stags, making a head-turning HRV Cup debut in 2010 in which he bowled Craig McMillan with an absolute gem amid a T20 haul of 4-13 in Nelson. He played the rest of the season, but missed out on a contract.
“Back then, there were only about 12 contracts. In fact, I think Adam Milne got the last one which at the time I was pissed off about. But I can see why now!”
Rance stayed hungry.
“One reason for that was that building had allowed me to see what was on the other side of the fence. Getting up every day and having to go to work. Waking up at 6am. Digging holes in mud on cold mornings to make a living. I still don’t take playing professional cricket for granted.”
He was a late bloomer for the BLACKCAPS as well, 29 when he got the call.
“But in a way, I’m glad that’s how it happened. That I started later— because now, even though I’m 34, I feel like I’m a ‘younger 34’ than perhaps if I’d been playing for 15 odd years. I still have the enthusiasm, and appreciate the opportunities.”
This season, things have been going better than ever for the prodigious swinger of the ball. The in-swinger was always a weapon, but the out-swinger used to be a wild child, testing the keeper.
“In years gone by, that’s been a work-on. But this season I’ve been confident to use it in a game and it’s showed that, when I’m fit and able to run in hard, cricket can still be fresh and enjoyable. I do feel like I am bowling as well as I ever have, with my outswinger being more of a weapon.”
Come May, he will have clocked up 18 years in the fire service. There are some 20 colleagues in the Greytown brigade who can cover when he’s away with the Stags, and he and wife Suze and their young kids were able to enjoy an off-season in Furness in the UK a few winters ago.
Greytown always lures him back.
“I love living in a small town community, and I’m proud of being able to do what I do from here and represent the Wairarapa as well,” says Rance.
“The firefighting is an extra dimension to that and gives me a brilliant balance between cricket and coming home.
“There have been times when I have come back from a game of cricket and literally within 10 minutes of saying hi to the kids, I’ve got the callout and had to go. That’s what you need to be ready to do to help people out in the time of need, and you’re meeting people in the community, building those relationships that are pretty key in a small town, and it’s something different every time. Plus, there’s no greater satisfaction than to be able to help someone in serious need, and then you bump into them in the street six months later and they’re here and doing great.”
His life of high-energy pursuits has made him a better person, he feels. He’s learned how to work in different environments, around different teams and personalities, and under pressure.
“In cricket, building and fire-fighting, people are depending on you to do a good job. You’re under pressure in all three to make good decisions consistently, that affect the outcomes. I enjoy being busy, and I think the three work together for me well now.
“It’s nice as a player, too, to know in the future that I’ve got my business, and I can lean into that in the future if I have to pull the pin on cricket, or it suddenly stops. My wife Suze has also got a hair salon that we manage. Looking back now, it’s great to have been able to grow these things and it’s allowing me to keep playing cricket for as long as I can.”