Waiheke United players pursue pro dreams overseas

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Two former Waiheke United players and cousins, Kaea Rangihaeata and Ihaia Gray, are following their professional football dreams and both hope to represent the All Whites at the next World Cup.

Kaea moved off island and was playing for the Western Springs senior men’s team which recorded a 1-1 draw against Waiheke United in April this year. In August 2022, Kaea moved to play college football in the United States after securing a five-year scholarship with Fairfield University in Connecticut, playing in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Division One. He’s just completed his first season, mainly coming off the bench. He managed one assist. He was named Rookie of the Week in his first outing and has been pressing for a starting position ever since.  

“It was a season of ups and downs. We started well but then we fell away during the middle of the season, which cost us in the playoffs where we lost to Manhattan in the quarter-finals. It was interesting to see how different the football was, and we also played twice a week, Saturday and Wednesdays, so it was a challenge to stay fit and healthy. In our conference the hardest-working team will win the game. Being a freshman, I had four starts and I played 500 minutes which was the highest for any freshman, but I was disappointed I didn’t score. Our biggest result was beating Princeton, an Ivy League university, 3-1. Overall, it was a good change. It was a high level and I was excited to play each week but I have learned a lot and can’t wait to play next season with all I have experienced so far,” says Kaea. • Mike Gray

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