Richmond have suffered a huge blow just before Christmas, with superstar key defender Alex Rance announcing a shock immediate retirement.
In a club statement, he said he wanted to focus more on spending time with his family and practising his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“Now I feel is the right time for me to put the same time and energy into other areas of my life that need it, and to prioritise the more important things to me, such as my spiritual growth, my family and friends.”
The 30-year-old was easily the best key defender in the game in his prime, earning five consecutive All Australian honours from 2014 to 2018. He was an integral part in the club’s drought-breaking premiership win in 2017, as well as being named All Australian captain that year.
His 2019 season, however, was cut down by an ACL tear in the very first match which, cruelly, was his 200th.
While speculation mounted that he was on track to make a surprise return for the finals series, he ultimately missed out on the club’s 2019 premiership triumph – their second in three seasons.
Richmond CEO Brendon Gale paid tribute to the key defender, calling him “clearly one of the greatest players to have pulled on the Richmond jumper.”
“Alex has been the ultimate competitor, an incredible character of the Club, and a fine example of a Richmond Man.
“Although he’s stepping away from playing football, he’ll always be part of Richmond and we wish him and his family all the best for the future.”
Retirement rumours actually surrounded the key defender for much of 2015 too. With Rance out of contract, many sources claimed he was over the stress and grind of professional football and was contemplating walking away from the game altogether.
However, he won the club’s best and fairest that season – surprisingly the only time he’s done so – and ended up staying on, although he did reveal later that he decided in 2014 that the next season would be his last.