Alex Rance. Picture: Michael Klein
Alex Rance. Picture: Michael Klein

What does Rance say to Buddy?

ALEX Rance is the premier defender in the game.

But it was always the case, the Tigers premiership star talks to Jon Anderson about his development, how Richmond can avoid a hangover and what his future holds.

Jon Anderson: You mightn't know this story but in the 1990 drawn qualifying final between Collingwood and West Coast, your father Murray congratulated his opponent Brian Taylor on a vital mark and goal in the last quarter. It's always stuck with me that he could find that type of sportsmanship despite the pressure of the game.

Alex Rance: I've grown up knowing dad is a man of good values and I hope it can be my legacy. I know that early in my career I could be hot-headed and a little bit emotional.

Murray Rance as a West Coast Eagle.
Murray Rance as a West Coast Eagle.

JA: So you are telling me you have done the same thing?

AR: I've complimented plenty of players and when someone does something pretty awesome I say 'that was pretty good', and when I'm playing on Buddy Franklin I tend to say it a fair bit. There are times in a game when you can appreciate that and there are others when you need to be pretty focused.

JA: Take your mind back to last year when you were 4-0 at the same stage, is there any obvious difference?

AR: I always forget and it was such an emotional end to last year which overrode a lot of what happened early but it does feel the same, if not more enjoyable.

It's not so much focused on wins and losses, but more the connection you feel. We are starting to not necessarily have to talk and communicate, where things just happen so it's starting to fall into place earlier than last year.

JA: Richmond seems blessed with a lack of injuries in recent times.

AR: Football was going down a dangerous path where everyone thought you had to do more to get more. We train 10 months of the year meaning you just can't maintain that high level of explosive power. You will deteriorate at some time. Clubs are starting to realise that and taper back the workload.

Alex Rance is tackled by Lance Franklin. Picture: Michael Klein
Alex Rance is tackled by Lance Franklin. Picture: Michael Klein

JA: How do you break it down?

AR: There are performance areas, growth areas and recovery areas.

JA: Has your conditioning staff pulled back in recent times?

AR: They have a really good understanding of our personal needs. Dave Astbury and I played the most minutes of any players last year so during the week, Peter Burge, who is our head guy, will give us that extra time off and make sure we are treated accordingly. The same with the rehab guys who are never rushed back.

JA: So there are no premiership hangover headlines for we media people to write, such as a lack of hunger?

AR: Hunger isn't the ingredient that teams lack after a premiership because everyone wants to win and is competitive.

JA: So what constitutes a premiership hangover?

AR: Focus. When you focus on the external noise saying 'are they going to be as good as last year? What are they going to change?', that's when teams can fall down. You have to be convinced that your brand will hold up, because relearning a new game plan every year is pretty tough.

Alex Rance celebrates Richmond’s 2017 premiership.
Alex Rance celebrates Richmond’s 2017 premiership.

JA: So you are backing your game plan, with a tweak in that Dustin Martin is spending more time forward?

AR: He did that in patches last year so it doesn't change our ethos going forward. It makes it easier in a lot of ways because you kick it in his direction and he wins it.

JA: Defensive pressure is still Richmond's MO?

AR: We pride ourselves on that and making sure we can minimise scores. That's where teams can get caught out because during the season it's run and gun and score heaps, but come finals the ball is held in a bit more which worries teams because they aren't scoring enough. You need to build your game on defence because that wins you premierships, not Dusty kicking you six..

JA: What changes have you noticed in the game this year?

AR: The umpiring everyone would agree has changed. Whether the AFL wants to see forwards kicking bigger bags because there have definitely been tiggy touchy holding frees which I don't necessarily see are there and blocking frees in marking contests. Because teams generate a spare behind the ball, that is the counteraction to that.

JA: You said earlier you don't have a great memory of your games, but can you remember who has kicked the most goals on you?

AR: Early on Travis Cloke got hold of me and kicked seven. Now it's a system where I could rotate forward and my opponent get it out the back, which means the goal is on me but in some ways it isn't. It's a shame that the head-to-head match-ups are going out of the game but that's also the way the game is being adjudicated.

JA: How long do you have left in the game Alex, given you are still young at 28?

AR: I'm a pretty impulsive sort of guy so I'm not one to plan too far ahead and put too much emotion on those type of things. I'm really enjoying what I'm doing now and I don't want to end it prematurely. I'm just living in the moment really.

Travis Cloke battles with Alex Rance in 2013.
Travis Cloke battles with Alex Rance in 2013.

JA: Your current contract runs out at the end of next year. Had you always seen yourself as still playing footy in your 30th year?

AR: I hadn't planned it because when I was younger I didn't think I would be good enough to play AFL footy. I didn't start playing until I was 12 and was pretty much rubbish up until my under-18s year.

JA: Given your father Murray was a 97-game player with Footscray and West Coast between 1986-90, why didn't you start earlier?

AR: Because you couldn't tackle before age 12, dad said don't get into bad habits, so that was one of the reasons. It probably impeded me offensively in my decision making. I played other sports like beach volleyball, golf and triathlons. Football was never the real focus in my life although Dad would always be pumped if I was playing, but it was never forced..

JA: When the change happen for you as a player, to go from a promising defender who could sometimes be shaky to the player you are today?

AR: There were a couple. At the start of my career I was shifted around a lot and lost confidence and sight of what I was brought to the club for. I tried to be something I wasn't. I thought I was coming in to be Andrew Embley or Chad Cornes, all these different other players.

JA: So who did you end up becoming?

AR: The club first said 'we want you to be like Darren Glass', I was like 'oh man, I really respect him as a player but I thought I was a bit more offensive than that'. Now it's one of the best compliments I have been paid and they weren't far wrong because we are pretty similar players.

JA: So how long before you became comfortable?

AR: The first time was after about three years because physically I was quite strong and offensively I started to attack the game and wanted the ball in my hands. Then I started to realise I could win some one-on-one contests, and then I decided to go for a few marks rather than spoiling. Then I thought maybe I could impact a contest or two that were a bit further away. It just sort of snowballed. But it got to the point maybe in 2016 when I needed support. I got Dave Astbury, Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlaustin. I'm trying to make them play to their strengths as well.


Alex Rance in action for Richmond.
Alex Rance in action for Richmond.