Tanerau Latimer is arguably Rangiuru Sports Club's most famous son.

Now the five-times All Blacks and Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning sevens player is back at the club as player coach of the premier side, which last season won a spot in Baywide rugby's top tier.

After playing for the All Blacks, New Zealand Māori, New Zealand Sevens and the Crusaders and Chiefs in Super Rugby, Latimer took his talents overseas, first to Japan and then to France. He returned last year and was quickly back at his former club helping head coach Simon Rolleston.

"I shot down to a training and Simon asked if I could do the forwards and I said I could commit to a night a week. That was for about eight weeks, but he did all of the work — I applaud him for that," he said.

Advertisement

"It's a tough gig and it soaks up a lot of your time. It's important when you get away from it to dwell on the present and the now and not dwell too much on what happened last night at training or what you need to fix."

Free of those pressures, Rolleston will be back on the paddock in 2019, as will Steamers player Isaac Te Aute. Last season's fullback Elijah Nicholas is in Australia chasing a league contract, but may be back.

Latimer played junior rugby for both Rangiuru and Te Puke Sports and went to Paengaroa and Te Puke Intermediate schools before moving on to Tauranga Boys' College.

"Both those clubs are my clubs — it's in the roots, in the family," he said.

Taking over at Rangiuru is his first head coaching role.

"It's, I suppose, a normal transition from when you finish rugby. As you go through your rugby career you become more of a voice and you work closely with the coaches, so you help deliver what they want, so you're doing a little bit of coaching there as well."

Pre-season began in October with around a dozen players.

"These boys just kept showing up, so we were glad to be there and guide them along the way."

Advertisement

After winning the Baywide Premier 2 title in 2018 and securing promotion to the Baywide Premier division for 2019, Latimer is well aware the side needs to step up another level.

"When I got my team on paper, I thought we could have a pretty good team — then reality struck about three weeks ago."

With good numbers of new players, one of his first jobs is to ensure they can be incorporated into the team.

"We are getting that moving as fast as possible — there's a whole raft of things we have to think about. It's a steep learning curve for me, but that's part of the process."

Latimer said he was unsure about the semi-professionalism that is now part of club rugby.

"I've sat back and thought, 'that's not the way club rugby should be played', but that's the way it is — that's just the way clubs are getting through.

"I still believe that getting out and meeting people face to face rather than throwing money or whatever to attract them to the club first, that's the best option because you are meeting the people and they are coming for the right reasons as well."

When the season's fixtures were released last week, one of the first things Latimer did was look to see when Rangiuru would be up against near neighbours and reigning Baywide champions Te Puke Sports, and discovered it will be on the final weekend of the first round of games.

"Hopefully by then we'll have got a little bit of momentum."

The Baywide competition kicks off on March 23.

Before then, Rangiuru is playing in the four team Rosebowl competition that also features Rangataua, Judea and Te Teko.