Growing up in New Zealand, a young Reuben Te Rangi would dive in the pond at the golf course near his home, retrieve the errant balls and then sell them to players as they arrived at the club for their round.
It was a good way to make a little cash to “buy some lollies at the dairy” — milk bar down under — and it ignited a passion for golf in South East Melbourne’s Kiwi stopper.
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The 27-year-old is living in Cheltenham, smack bang in the middle of Melbourne’s sandbelt and he’ll be in the market for a membership at one of the locals, because he’s just inked a new two-year deal with the Phoenix that will keep him at the Firepit until at least the end of the 2023-24 season.
“I’m pretty stoked, very happy here at South East Melbourne, so it was a no-brainer for me,” Te Rangi said.
“The club were keen to get me back on as soon as possible so when they came to me we sorted everything out and we got the deal done.
“It’s always a good feeling to be wanted, but it’s always good to be around people and in a situation that makes you happy.”
Defensive stopper Te Rangi’s role has expanded in the absence of injured star Ryan Broekhoff, but the team has dug a deep hole, losing its past four games.
“I guess our team is always next man up,” he said.
“It sucks that Rowdy went down with the shoulder injury and we can’t wait to have him back, but we’ve got to fill in the gaps where need be and I’m definitely excited to do that.
“Losing is always hard, but there’s always things to take away from it. A lot of the games we’re in, but we’re just not figuring out ways to get over the hump.
“This week’s been a big reality check and figuring out ways we can be better in those last couple minutes.
“We’re right there.”
Mitch Creek is an unabashed fan of his teammate — something Te Rangi says helps him stay aggressive.
“Creeky’s always in my ear walking out of time-outs and coming into games,” he said.
“I actually had a conversation with him this week that I really appreciated him giving me the pick up and telling me to always attack and keep looking for mine.
“It’s always good coming from the main player and the head of the snake.”
The Phoenix get a chance to turn their season around Friday when they head to Cairns to take on the Taipans.
“They’re are not having the best year this year, but they’re always hard in Cairns,” he said.
“They find a way to lift in front of their fans and you have to play your best basketball when you’re up there, so we’ll be bringing everything to that game.”
As far as the golf goes, Phoenix physio Simon Wigg often joins Te Rangi, but he says he’s always in the ear of his teammates to get out on the links with him.