Just a week before the Christmas holiday, ace Tiger defender Alex Rance - some say the best defender of the past decade - announced his immediate retirement. It came as a shock after he missed the entire 2019 season due to a ruptured ACL in the season opener. Rance was hopeful of returning late in the 2019 season to play in the Grand Final and was event training for two weeks prior, but eventually decided he was not ready.
He said in a statement that he felt the time was right so he could "... put the same time and energy into other areas of my life that need it, and to prioritize the more important things to me, such as my spiritual growth (a devout Jehovah's Witness), my family and friends.”
He was contracted through the end of 2021 and nearly walked away from the game before signing the contract extension. Rance, 30, also said at the club website, “I am someone who will always give their best to what they commit to, and I’m proud of the time, energy and dedication that I’ve put towards my football career. Right now, I feel I have served my purpose in terms of my on-field performance and cultural impact, and I’m so grateful to the football club for their support and care in allowing me to do that in my own unique way." He actually considered retirement in 2015 and several times after that. In 2018, he pondered how long he wanted to play, asking himself, “Am I going to play until my legs give out, or am I going to play until I want to pursue something else with as much hunger and passion as I do football?”
Richmond CEO Brendon Gale said of Rance, “Alex, his manager and the club have been in regular communication about Alex’s future, and while we will miss him dearly ... we understand and respect his need to step away ... to focus on his personal life. He leaves ... a highly-decorated premiership player and it has been a privilege for all us to watch him play. He is clearly one of the greatest players to have pulled on the Richmond jumper. Alex has been the ultimate competitor, an incredible character ... and a fine example of a Richmond Man. “Although he’s stepping away ... he’ll always be part of Richmond and we wish him and his family all the best for the future.” As good as Rance was on the field, Gale said his presence would be missed just as keenly off it, remarking on his quirky personality,. "He's a real leader and a connector," Gale said. He joked, "... he's mad. I don't understand him, but he lifts the place. He's one of those guys who creates energy. Things happen on the field ... but they happen off the field as well and he's going to leave big shoes to fill. He's just got a range of alter egos. He's schizophrenic. I don't make light of that, but he just flips into different personalities and I don't know where they come from ... but he's just stark raving mad."
Former Richmond coach Terry Wallace was there in 2007 when Rance was drafted. he related the story of how Richmond had to make a choice on draft day between Rance and Scott Selwood and almost did not select Rance. According to Wallace, he and the recruiters were looking at both players and took their time to decide. One factor playing on their minds was, when Richard Tambing (Richmond, 108 games, 2005 to 2010; Adelaide, 16 games 2011 to 2013) and Lance Franklin were both drafted, the Tigers opted for Tambling over Franklin.
Wallace said on SEN, "We were looking for a running defender or a key defender, but ... with recruiting you don’t know who is going to be available with your pick ... we had two players we had in mind for pick 18 and both of the players were available. I’ve always been one who says the recruiters recruit, they pick who they think is the right person and it is the coach’s job to coach that person to the best of their ability. So we got to the pick and took our extra two minutes because the two were there and I remember saying to the recruiters that we’ve got to get this right ... I remember turning around to the recruiting boys and saying it’s your pick, but I can remember being in this position once before and we picked the little bloke and not the big bloke and the big bloke ended up being Lance Franklin! I said, "... it’s up to you, but if there’s any doubt let’s take the key position player". That’s the way it ended up playing out ... when he first arrived he was like a young colt, "He wasn’t broken in. He was a supreme athlete ... but his decision making - he would get hold of the ball in the backline and he would run the wrong direction and kick it across the ground and turn the ball over.” Wallace believes Richmond bringing in Justin Lepptisch former Brisbane defender) as an assistant in 2010 helped Rance become the player he was capable of being. “I only had him as a baby, but ... when Justin Leppitsch got to the club, took him under his wing ... tightened up everything about Rance ... Leppitsch had a massive deal in turning Alex into the player we always believed he could be.” Wallace believes Rance should go down as the best defender of the decade. “He’s certainly got to be in the calculations ... There’s been some great defenders. The ones that standout ... are the ones that are offensively minded as well as being able to do a job. To me he is as good in that area of just being able to read the play and back himself in ... I’m a huge Matthew Scarlett fan and he’s the other one who really stands out for me, but I think Rance is the equal to anyone now."
Tiger captain Trent Cotchin, who was drafted to the club at the same time as Rance, said the decision was a shock, but not a surprise, and paid tribute to his vice-captain, "Every time he's at the footy club he gives his absolute best and spends a lot of energy on others and getting his game better. There's a little bit of sadness there, but there's also – as 'Dimma' (coach Damien Hardwick) spoke about this morning - an opportunity for others. There's a hole there, much like last year when he went down with a knee injury, for other guys to grow and flourish. He was trying to be typical 'Rancey', with a bit of humor (when telling the players). He had his little nephew with him up the front as well. Clearly, family's a massive part of 'Tross' (Rance) and I think he handled himself really well." When speaking to reporters after the announcement, Cotchin also noted that Rance was somewhat of a prankster around the club.
He will remain on the Richmond list until the end of the season, at which time he will officially be "delisted". However the club can put him on either the long-term injury list or an "inactive" list. This would open up a place on the senior list so the club would be able to elevate one of their rookies or pick up a player in either the preseason draft or during the Supplemental Signing Period ahead of the 2020 season.
Besides family, faith and community, Rance will focus on The Academy, a school he started in 2016 with a footy focus. He has also written several childrens' books.
Best and fairest 2015
Source: sen.com.au, afl.com.au, theage.com.au, AFL Record Season Guides
Article last changed on Thursday, February 27, 2020 - 4:49 PM EST