“A big, fun snowball”: The simple life helps Rance and Richmond catch the flag

Josh Elliott Editor

By Josh Elliott, Josh Elliott is a Roar Editor

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    Alex Rance went from considering retirement to premiership player, all thanks to simplicity and balance in life (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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    In 2015 Alex Rance was coming into his eighth year of football having just experienced a breakout season where he was named All Australian for the first time. He was 25 years old – yet, amazingly, he was considering retirement.

    Rance has always loved the game, but he was worried about how his dedication to being an AFL player was affecting his life outside of football. He needed to find greater balance in his life and wasn’t sure he could do it as a full-time footballer.

    “We started playing football when we were younger because we enjoyed it, we were having a laugh with our friends or kicking a footy out the back with our dads, and over time it became a job and a chore,” says Rance.

    “It was about work-life balance. I wanted to make sure that energy in and energy out was going in the right place. My personality is one that if I do something I’m going to commit completely to it.

    “When I went to football training it would take so much energy from me, when I would come home I’d just be so sapped of energy. I thought I might need to readjust that balance in my life.”

    There was plenty of chatter amongst the media during season 2015 about what Rance would do at the end of the year and while retirement and Richmond were two of the leading options, talk also went around that he could receive offers from other clubs.

    The Fremantle Dockers under Ross Lyon were said to be one of the main sides in the hunt for his services, hoping to lure him back home to Western Australia, and Rance admits the idea of returning home did have its appeals.

    “I grew up in Perth so that would’ve been an opportunity to be closer to some family, and slow life down a bit because Melbourne can be a little hustle bustle and footy-focused sometimes.

    “Other clubs certainly were in the picture, but it was a fleeting thought. It would’ve just been a bandaid.”

    In June that year Rance made his decision. He signed a four-year contract with Richmond that will see him remain an AFL player until the end of 2019. He’s not sure what will happen after that.

    It couldn’t simply be a decision to continue life as it was though, and Rance has since strived to live a life more balanced.

    “It was a maturing process, going through all the reasons I should stay or leave. I really wanted to have a hand in the development of younger players, younger people.

    “I had to realise that as soon as football’s done at the end of the day I come home and give just as much energy back to my family.

    “If I had a good game of football I’d have a good week, if I trained well that night was going to be a good one, but I don’t really give myself a pass or fail mark on football anymore.

    “I get far more enjoyment out of making people laugh and being a good role model now, being a good husband, being a good brother, being a good son and uncle now than I do racking up possessions or winning games of football.

    “The sooner people realise that football isn’t everything in their lives, the more mentally stable and happier they’re going to be.”

    Alex Rance of the Richmond Tigers

    (Photo: Justine Walker/AFL Media)

    The season that followed Rance’s decision to remain in the game, 2016, was one of the hardest to endure for fans and the club in the history of Richmond.

    After playing in finals for three consecutive years, the Tigers had eight wins for the year and finished 13th.

    “It feels like miles away that year – hard to say exactly what went wrong. Sometimes as a player over the course of your career you try to tinker with things that don’t need to be tinkered with, it needs to be more a principle-based approach.”

    The club ended the season in a state of uncertainty. 243-game veteran Tiger Brett Deledio took a trade to GWS, while three new players – Dion Prestia, Josh Caddy and Toby Nankervis – arrived at Richmond in October.

    Coach Damien Hardwick’s position was regularly talked about, and while an outside challenge to Richmond’s board in September that year failed, it made plenty of headlines.

    Fast forward 12 months later and Richmond were celebrating the club’s eleventh premiership on grand final day 2017.

    How did they do it? Like Rance himself, the club chose to simplify and act with purpose. The results were unbelievable.

    “When I first came to the club you had to watch your game again by yourself on your laptop, what you did right and what you did wrong, you had all of these action plans about what you had to do this week to get better for the next game.

    “It became so all-consuming – now it’s so more about finding where you put football to bed, once you’ve done your work on football you go home.

    “A lot of it was about just enjoying our time on field, our time off field, and really being in the moment. A simplifying process.

    “When you get drafted you know how to play football. So much of the game is mental these days – everyone is as fit as everyone else, everyone can kick the ball, everyone can mark the ball, but it’s a matter of what you do in the moment and whether your mind’s clear enough to execute.

    “It just seemed like this big, fun snowball – Dusty won the Brownlow, a couple of us got in the All Australian side, it seemed like the more fun we had the more success we got.

    “It was that way around – it wasn’t as if success came first and then we were happy. Even when we lost those four close games in the middle of the year, it wasn’t as if we ever lost that sense of fun and enjoyment.

    “It never really felt like we could lose – it was so amazing and definitely an addictive feeling. I can see how successful players and sides want to keep holding on and on to keep feeling that success.”

    Richmond Tigers Grand Final AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    I asked Rance if winning the premiership had changed the way he lives his life at all. His answer was a simple and honest one: no.

    “It was great, I had a great month and a few weeks after that, but I’m not someone to overhype something.

    “I would give up my medal and the title just to be able to experience that joy with my mates again. It was more about the moments and memories that I’ll always cherish and be able to reflect on with my mates.”

    The desire to experience success and joy in life is universal, one all of us can relate to. I was sure to ask Rance what advice he would give to others.

    His assertion that enjoyment comes before success is something that has stuck with me since talking to him – so often in life we picture it to be the other way around.

    We make ourselves miserable and strive towards large-scale goals because we think they will make us happy, instead of realising that being happy in the everyday is what will help us catch what we are chasing.

    Finding peace, balance and joy in your everyday life will fill you with energy and the positive momentum that you need to do the things you always dreamed of.

    I talked with Rance a lot about this and I have talked with many others about it too. There is no trick or loophole – but the philosophy of the good life is a simple one, because simplicity itself is the philosophy.

    “The important part is just to strip everything back and not have too many distractions in your life.

    “It’s about reflecting, working out what you enjoy, and trying to incorporate as much of that into your life as possible.”

    Alex Rance is an ambassador for Wolf Blass, who are giving away a prize of two tickets for every AFL grand final until 2030. Find out more here.

    Josh Elliott
    Josh Elliott

    Josh Elliott may be The Roar's Weekend Editor, but at heart he's just a rusted-on North Melbourne tragic with a penchant for pun headlines - and also abnormal alliteration, assuredly; assuming achievability. He once finished third in a hot chilli pie eating contest. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshElliott_29 and listen to him on The Roar's AFL Podcast.

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    The Crowd Says (30)

    • Roar Guru

      May 2nd 2018 @ 9:35am
      AdelaideDocker said | May 2nd 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      Oh man. Cam Rose is gonna be pi$$ed you got the Rance gig, Josh!

      If you did in fact interview him, which the article makes it seem like you did.

      • Columnist

        May 2nd 2018 @ 4:37pm
        Cameron Rose said | May 2nd 2018 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

        Haha, not at all AD. I was overseas at the time unfortunately, so couldn’t make it work.

    • May 2nd 2018 @ 10:08am
      Birdman said | May 2nd 2018 @ 10:08am | ! Report

      Just imagine if Rance had left the game to walk the earth and Dusty had gone to the Giants and Riewoldt was traded after telling Dimma that the Tiges should play more like Hawthorn.

      Sliding doors right there

    • May 2nd 2018 @ 10:20am
      BigAl said | May 2nd 2018 @ 10:20am | ! Report

      I believe Rance is a practising Jehovah’s Witness. Given the tone of this article it is a great oversight not to mention it.

      I also recall reading somewhere (a few years ago) that he was weighing up between his religion and football ?

      • Roar Guru

        May 2nd 2018 @ 10:30am
        Peter the Scribe said | May 2nd 2018 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        Yes Big Al I was thinking the same thing. He is a JW, they are the ones who knock on your doors on Saturday Mornings in ill fitting Aldi suits trying to give you their literature called “The Watchtower”. They don’t do great things for the Womens movement to put it lightly, preferring women to stay at home and look after their husbands than educate themselves. They also practice “shunning”. That is, if a family member leaves their faith they are not meant to talk to them or even say hello unless one of their elders is present. Weird stuff.


        • Roar Rookie

          May 2nd 2018 @ 12:04pm
          Mattician6x6 said | May 2nd 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

          Johos are strange, if ever annoyed by their door knocking just ask to be put on their list and they won’t knock on your door ever again.

          • May 2nd 2018 @ 12:13pm
            Mattyb said | May 2nd 2018 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

            It’s a good point BigAl and I’m surprised also it wasn’t raised,especially given the tone of the article.
            Each to their own in regards to their beliefs but Rances beliefs and being a professional footballer,idolised by many seems a massive contradiction to me.

          • Roar Guru

            May 2nd 2018 @ 2:22pm
            Peter the Scribe said | May 2nd 2018 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

            Or Talk in tongues at them Mattician, they soon turn around when you do that!

          • May 2nd 2018 @ 2:48pm
            Bretto said | May 2nd 2018 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

            Or feed them # cookies….

        • May 2nd 2018 @ 12:34pm
          truetigerfan said | May 2nd 2018 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

          Wow! Sounding like religious vilification to me! Bachar Houli is Moslem, perhaps you can share your expertise?

          • May 2nd 2018 @ 1:32pm
            BigAl said | May 2nd 2018 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

            No “vilification” here, just identifying what I think would be a significant character influence – and If you want to provoke/pump that up. . . there’s nothing I can do…

            • May 2nd 2018 @ 1:46pm
              truetigerfan said | May 2nd 2018 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

              Wasn’t replying to you, Al.

              • Roar Guru

                May 2nd 2018 @ 4:00pm
                Peter the Scribe said | May 2nd 2018 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

                Yeah Mattyb, I think Truetiger came in here looking for acknowledgement from the establishment in here, like Cat and as such follows you, me and a few others like Don around trying to provoke. He especially follows Cat around trying to defend him and back him up but cat ignores him as well. Fact is, Big Al made a valid point. JW’s also are the ones who don’t take blood transfusions, in fact recoil at anything blood related.

              • May 2nd 2018 @ 9:26pm
                Philby said | May 2nd 2018 @ 9:26pm | ! Report

                Leave it, truetigerfan.

                Rance has done nothing to hurt any of these people, but that won’t stop them taking potshots at him….and that, really, says it all.

              • May 2nd 2018 @ 9:36pm
                truetigerfan said | May 2nd 2018 @ 9:36pm | ! Report

                Yeah, you’re right, Philby. A w.a.p. effort doesn’t warrant a response. Hope these dudes are very proud of themselves.

              • Roar Guru

                May 3rd 2018 @ 10:24am
                Peter the Scribe said | May 3rd 2018 @ 10:24am | ! Report

                I’m not pot shotting Rance. He is an incredible footballer. Their cult is weird though and I know someone who was “shunned” by their faith because she had the temerity to leave it because they didn’t want her to go to Uni. Their cult made her mother call her and explain that she could only see her daughter under supervised visits. Imagine making a mother do that. Now maybe Rance doesn’t know about all that stuff, who knows. All I am pointing out is that it is a very dubious cult to follow. Great footballer, dubious faith.

            • Roar Guru

              May 2nd 2018 @ 2:18pm
              Peter the Scribe said | May 2nd 2018 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

              BigAl, Truetiger has made a habit in here of provoking, prodding, looking for sore points, I generally find it easier to just ignore him.

              • May 2nd 2018 @ 3:04pm
                truetigerfan said | May 2nd 2018 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

                Slow day at uni again, Scribe?

              • May 2nd 2018 @ 3:36pm
                Mattyb said | May 2nd 2018 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

                He’s certainly a funny one Pete,seems to need to feed off others and not really strong enough to stand on his own two feet.

        • May 2nd 2018 @ 11:43pm
          Virgil Starkwell said | May 2nd 2018 @ 11:43pm | ! Report

          Aldi don’t sell suits, and even if they did, Collingwood supporters such as yourself, couldn’t afford one.

      • May 2nd 2018 @ 12:40pm
        Pope Paul VII said | May 2nd 2018 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

        Right! The next person to say Jehovah…

        Maybe Joshy didn’t mention it because Rancy Pants didn’t bring it up?

        Although maybe “A big, fun snowball” is a reference to his deity?

        I quite like their mag “The Watchtower”. Every time I see it, it brings to mind Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower”.

        • Roar Guru

          May 2nd 2018 @ 2:21pm
          Peter the Scribe said | May 2nd 2018 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

          Try reading it Pope, it’s from some sort of time warp of the 1950’s. It is so removed from anything Jimi H was about!

          • May 2nd 2018 @ 3:04pm
            Pope Paul VII said | May 2nd 2018 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

            I wouidn’t go that far Pete.

    • Roar Rookie

      May 2nd 2018 @ 12:03pm
      Mattician6x6 said | May 2nd 2018 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

      As his old man is a former wce capt always disappointing he isn’t with my mob, some excellent insights to how mentally strong dance is, superb player.

    • May 2nd 2018 @ 7:24pm
      big four sticks said | May 2nd 2018 @ 7:24pm | ! Report

      It is good that Rance will be part of our threepeat.if he chooses to retire after 2019, three premiership medallions is a great way to exit.

    • May 4th 2018 @ 8:58am
      Birdman said | May 4th 2018 @ 8:58am | ! Report

      slightly off topic, but what’s with the deafening media cheerleading to get Tom Lynch to the Tiges?

      I recall when Frawley went to Hawthorn and Buddy went to the Swans there was outrage about free agents going to successful clubs and it’s impact on the league.

      Apparently no longer an issue…..

      • Roar Rookie

        May 4th 2018 @ 11:09am
        Mattician6x6 said | May 4th 2018 @ 11:09am | ! Report

        Birdman- more high profile Richmond supporters in the media?

        • May 4th 2018 @ 11:21am
          Birdman said | May 4th 2018 @ 11:21am | ! Report


          Can’t help thinking the AFL wouldn’t mind that result seeing as ambassadorial dough to keep him up north has already been ruled out by Gilligan. They would love a Richmond dynasty with Carlton and Essendon in the doldrums is my feeling.

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