Main content

What Rance's season-long absence means for Tigers

Rance feels the love, AFL acts on thugs, Hawks fly Footy Feed with Matt Thompson

RICHMOND now has to answer a question it hoped it wouldn't have to for quite some time.

What's life like without five-time All-Australian fullback Alex Rance?

The 29-year-old tore his right ACL during Thursday night's 33-point win over Carlton.

 

Rance has not missed a game since rounds six and seven in 2016, when he was suspended for striking Melbourne's Jack Watts.

To find his last games missed with injury, you have to trawl all the way back to the start of 2014, when he broke his foot falling off his scooter.

CONFIRMED Rance to miss season with ACL

He has been a mainstay of Richmond's tight-knit back six, who may have to reassign their roles in order to avoid making major changes to the game-plan, of which Rance's rebounding prowess is an important part.

 

The dependable Dylan Grimes is probably most suited to taking on Rance's intercept role. Capable of playing on both talls and smalls, and with good closing speed, Grimes is the closest option Richmond has.

Nick Vlastuin is also a strong intercept defender, but at 187cm isn't quite big enough to play on the forwards the 194cm-tall Rance does.

Key stopper David Astbury's role is unlikely to change given he generally takes the most dangerous forward, allowing Rance to peel off his player, intercept and kick-start Richmond's manic run down the ground.

Developing tall Ryan Garthwaite is widely acknowledged as the next cab off the rank but may not be ready to play next week against Collingwood.

The 20-year-old has played just two AFL games and was sidelined for periods this summer with Achilles tendonitis. He was due to play managed minutes in the VFL on Thursday night in his first competitive hitout for the year.

He would be the ideal inclusion, taking Grimes' opponent and allowing him to play a rebounding role.

Speedy runner Oleg Markov has been a strong performer on the track this pre-season and could come into contention but is a flanker rather than a key back.

Raw versatile tall Noah Balta can play down back, while rookie Mabior Chol is unlikely to be an option, having been played predominantly forward in recent times.

TEENAGE BEAST The closest thing to the next Alex Rance

While its only very early in the season, the 6-6-6 rule looks likely to encourage more one-on-one play in defence at centre bounces, rather than a zone.

Richmond ran with an interesting set-up against Carlton, starting defenders Bachar Houli or Jayden Short on the corner of the centre square as a winger, while a midfielder like Kane Lambert, Dion Prestia or Shane Edwards started in defence at the top of the 50.

As the ball was bounced, the "defender/winger" (e.g. Houli) would sprint inside 50, picking up the player of the "midfielder/defender" (e.g. Lambert), who had charged off the back of the square to play a sweeping role behind the stoppage.

It can be dangerous, with the opposing wing effectively left free.

Whether this system changes with the loss of Rance remains to be seen.