Alex Rance will play no further part in the 2019 AFL season, after it was confirmed the star defender tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Richmond’s season-opening win over Carlton last night.
Rance landed awkwardly in a marking contest during the third quarter of the clash against the Blues, his right knee buckling inwards slightly, and the Tigers have released a statement confirming he sustained an ACL tear and won’t play again this year.
“We’re really disappointed for Alex that he’ll spend an extended period of time out of the game, he’s a wonderful player and fantastic leader of our team,” Richmond’s general manager of football, Neil Balme, said.
“Alex, to his credit, has been incredibly positive since the injury occurred, and we’ll continue to rally around him in the coming days and throughout his rehab process.
“While we’ll miss his on-field contribution this season, we know he’ll apply the same dedication and discipline to his rehab and recovery, and we will continue to provide our ongoing support to him.”
Rance is expected to undergo surgery in the next few days to repair the ligament. The usual 12-month recovery from an ACL injury would have him on track to play the full 2020 season.
The news is a major blow to Richmond’s premiership hopes. Long considered the premier back in the AFL – he’s the only player in the entire competition to have made the last five All Australian team – Rance’s absence will leave the side without their key defender.
It will also be the first time the club will have to manage without one of their four key players; Rance, Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt had all avoided major injuries in the last two years as Richmond cemented themselves as one of the competition’s strongest sides.
The 29-year-old’s injury – coming in his 200th AFL match, too – was the only sour note after what was an otherwise positive Round 1 fixture for the Tigers. New recruit Tom Lynch, while evidently rusty following posterior cruciate ligament surgery last year – kicked three goals on debut, and the side ran out to what ended up being a quite comfortable 33-point win after Carlton threatened to hit the lead in the middle of the match.
Richmond’s next match is next Thursday night against Collingwood in what will be a rematch of last year’s preliminary final.