Richmond’s Alex Rance. Picture: Michael Klein
Richmond’s Alex Rance. Picture: Michael Klein

Why Rance could return at a new AFL club

Justin Leppitsch has revealed he opposed a trade request that would have seen Alex Rance join Hawthorn for a third-round pick before he turned into a modern-day great at Richmond.

And while Leppitsch would love to see Rance come back to football, he says a change of team and environment might be his best chance of a shock 2021 return.

Leppitsch is seen as instrumental in turning Rance from a talented but awkward "giraffe" into a five-time All-Australian and 2017 premiership defender.

He told the Herald Sun's Sacked podcast he doubted Rance would return to Punt Rd but might want to reinvigorate himself elsewhere.

Asked if footy would see Rance again, he replied: "I don't know, sometimes the further you move away from it, the harder it is to come back, that's all I would say.

"If he does, is it at Richmond or is it somewhere else?

"Is it a change of environment that will help him? I think now that this has happened with the virus, it has probably changed everyone's perspective as well."

Rance turns 31 in October and after recently keeping the door ajar for a comeback slammed it shut by saying he was "good to head off into the sunset".

Leppitsch helped the athletically freakish but ungainly Rance to develop using Mixed Martial Arts and tennis drills based around footwork and keeping his feet in contests.

Assistant coach Justin Leppitsch had a strong bond with Alex Rance.
Assistant coach Justin Leppitsch had a strong bond with Alex Rance.


Rance met Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson around 2010-11 as he battled to find a role in the Tigers side.

In his first stint at Richmond before returning following his senior role at Brisbane, Leppitsch remembers urging coach Damien Hardwick to stay the course with his top-20 draft selection.

"Yeah, it is true. Dimma rang me and spoke to me about it," Leppitsch said.

"I just sort of said, and it might have been one of my first years and I hadn't really done enough work with him yet, and I just said to Dimma, 'He's 6 foot 4 (194cm), he's athletic, just give me some time with him, and lets get him out on the track'.

"I think my first year he had been a bit of back, a bit of forward and a bit of mid, we hadn't really nailed him yet, it was more that second season when we are able to get our hands on him.

"He would have been a loss. I think it was a third rounder, somewhere in the 40s (for a trade) and I thought, 'Gee, only for that' ... we had no salary cap debt back then. If it's a pick in the 40s or Alex Rance, just give me Alex Rance'."

Triple All-Australian centre half-back Leppitsch said Rance was the equal of Geelong's Matthew Scarlett.

"Scarlo played in the era where you were still playing on someone," he said.

"I would love to play in this era when you don't have to play on someone, I would think I was too far ahead of my time in some ways. We play team defence now.

"But you can't tell me Alex Rance isn't great one-on-one.

"He probably didn't do it as much as Scarlo, because that's all he did - one-on-one and then work off in the old-fashioned way.

"Rancey (was more) third in and aerial (mark). I would hate to play on him."


Originally published as Why Rance could return at a new club