Rangi Chase: Where did it all go wrong?

Callum Walker

When in August 2017, it was announced that Rangi Chase had been suspended by his newest club Widnes Vikings for a failing a drugs test taken after a game in July, very few among the rugby league fraternity were surprised. It was the final act of a rugby league career that has been filled with more indiscretions than a Donald Trump government. With a talent like no other in the game, Chase could have been an international star, instead he has been consigned to the scrapheap.

Chase moved to Castleford Tigers ahead of the 2009 Super League season from NRL side St George Illawarra Dragons. The Tigers were, at this time, perennial strugglers in the top flight having been relegated just three seasons prior. It was a match made in heaven; he endeared himself to the Castleford faithful like few imports have done before and won the Player of the Year award in his maiden season. Having confessed that he was “in love with the club”, Chase signed a new four-year deal in August 2009, an announcement that made Castleford fans love him even more.

Off-the-field trouble

Rangi had however always attracted trouble in his private life. The move to England, perhaps, could have ended this. In April 2010, however, Chase was dropped by then-coach Terry Matterson for a breach of discipline. And, even more worryingly, in 2011, at Southport Magistrate’s Court, Chase pleaded guilty to causing Grievous Bodily Harm and was sentenced to two years imprisonment on a suspended sentence.

Whilst off-the-field misdemeanours continued to plague his life, his on-the-field magic became more sublime with every passing game. At the end of the 2011 season, he became the only second Castleford player (the other Adrian Vowles) to win the most prestigious individual accolade – the Man of Steel – as well as the Albert Goldthorpe Medal. His performances that year were like none ever seen in a Castleford shirt – he almost single-handedly got the Tigers to a Challenge Cup semi-final where he scored one of the greatest Cup tries in history.

New contract

Chase was given his due reward by the Castleford club, signing a four-year contract in September 2011. In October, he then swapped allegiances to England in a highly-controversial move and was called up for the Four Nations of that year. In a widely-publicised game, Rangi was the scrum-half in the Four Nations Final against Australia, which England lost 30-8. Not only had Chase apparently found a home at Castleford, England as a whole seemed to be where Rangi felt most attachment.

Yet again though, Rangi could not keep his house in order. In June 2012, he was again suspended for a breach of discipline by Matterson’s successor, Ian Millward. And, whilst performances on the field continued to impress, speculation about his future at the Tigers dominated the 2013 season.

Move to Salford

Speculation became reality as Chase moved to the newly-rebranded Salford Red Devils – bankrolled by a certain Dr Marwan Koukash – in a high-profile coup thought to be in the region of £115,000. Chase continued to be part of the England setup and was selected at stand-off for much of the 2013 World Cup. Rangi’s Salford career could not match up to his Castleford one however, and he never hit the heights that Tigers’ fans had previously lapped up.

For the next two years Rangi just did not seem happy and this transferred onto the field as his new club continued to struggle regardless of the massive investments Koukash had made. And, in September 2015, he was yet again suspended pending an internal disciplinary investigation. The Salford club had announced that he had failed to report for training on time and had little choice but to punish him. In September, Koukash also revealed that Rangi had asked for a transfer in June after becoming unsettled at the club and that he would be allowed to leave as a free agent. Rangi, whom had fit perfectly into the Castleford family, was clearly struggling.

Leigh come calling

It took until November 2015 for Chase to find a new club: Leigh Centurions. Signed as the catalyst to getting the Lancashire outfit back into Super League, Chase could not find his feet here either and played only five games over the course of three months in the 2016 season. Then, in shock news, he “retired” from rugby league.

“As he said when he joined us, he wanted to fall back in love with the game and do what he liked doing best which is playing rugby. Unfortunately that hasn’t been possible for most of the time. Rangi has an opportunity to do something away from the game and, having spoken to him at length, I had to agree it is probably the best thing for him at this stage.” Leigh Centurions’ owner, Derek Beaumont.

And, in the same week, Rangi revealed he had been battling depression as a result of his split from his wife whilst he had been at Salford.

The prodigal son returns home

Then, less than two months later, bizarrely, Castleford Tigers announced the signing of Chase until the end of 2016. It was a capture that Rangi claimed had made him “fall back in love” with the game. Playing seven times and scoring once towards the back end of that season, he signed a one-year deal in September for the 2017 season with the option of another year. Rangi had, seemingly, relaunched his career at the club where it all had started.

“It’s like coming back home for me, I love the people here. When the opportunity came up to come back to this great club I took it with both hands, I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip away from me.” Rangi Chase.

In an obvious show of loyalty, coach Daryl Powell gave Chase the No.6 shirt going into the 2017 season ahead of Ben Roberts. In the opening two matches the loyalty was repaid as Chase played a key role to inflict defeat on both Leigh Centurions and Warrington Wolves. However, trouble was never far away and, before Castleford’s third match, he was suspended by the club after an internal investigation.

It wasn’t until three games later that Rangi made a small cameo off the bench against Catalans Dragons. The mercurial talent was again on the bench a week later, but showed glimpses of the class that Castleford fans had once lapped up when he set up Joel Monaghan for two tries in Castleford’s pummelling of Huddersfield. After this, Rangi would make four more appearances. Unfortunately, Chase let his private indiscretions run amok and was again the subject of an internal investigation.

Chase takes one step too far

Rangi had, once more, let it all come crashing down. He left the Tigers on loan to Widnes Vikings in May and then permanently in July. Could the halfback finally settle down? Unfortunately, no. In August 2017, it was announced that Rangi had tested positive for cocaine, leading to his suspension by the Vikings.

The downward spiral of Rangi’s career appeared to start with his move to Salford in 2013, but, with a young family to support and the promise of a lucrative wage, who could blame the halfback for moving? In a team littered with stars however, he was no longer a big fish in a small pond as he had been at Castleford. And, the almost messiah-like love the Tigers’ fans had lauded over him could not be replicated at a club that averaged less than 3000 fans.

However, one cannot dismiss the idea that if Rangi had stayed at Castleford his career would have been a bed of roses. And, even when he returned to West Yorkshire in 2016, he was still the subject of two breaches of discipline that left the Tigers with little choice but to offload him. And, with his testing positive for cocaine and subsequent suspension, he confirmed on social media, that he would no longer play rugby league.

Career over at the age of 31

Totally unplayable on his day, it was a sad ending to what could have been a remarkable career. Rangi Chase: one of the most talented players to ever grace a rugby league field, had bowed out of the sport in ignominy.





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