RICHMOND premiership hero Alex Rance will make a surprise one-off appearance for Essendon in the Bombers’ VFL clash with flag fancy Southport at Fankhauser Reserve on Sunday. 

Rance, 31, has only played one match at any level since his knee injury and subsequent retirement at the end of 2019 – for the Seymour Lions in the Goulburn Valley league last month – but is able to answer the call due to being on the Gold Coast holidaying with his family. 

When Rance appeared for Seymour he was helping a good mate in Lions captain Ben Clifton, and this time he is answering an SOS from another – Essendon AFL coach Ben Rutten – with the Bombers being short on troops at VFL level after their lockdown escape to Queensland last week. 

He will be joined by former St Kilda No.1 draft pick Paddy McCartin, who has been playing at centre half-back for Sydney’s VFL team but has been loaned to the Bombers – giving Essendon a star-studded defence that also includes regulars Brandon Zerk-Thatcher and Martin Gleeson. 

Rance played exactly 200 AFL matches for Richmond, including the breakthrough 2017 premiership, and was named All Australian five times in a decorated career. 

But he tore his ACL in his milestone match in round one, 2019, and after failing to get back in time for a second flag, walked away from football to focus on his family and religion. 

01:02 Mins
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Huge Tiger concern as Rance goes down with a knee

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Northern Territory legend Cam Ilett, 36, who won six best-and-fairests for NT Thunder and eight NTFL premierships with St Mary’s and Nightcliff, will also play for Essendon, as will his Nightcliff teammate Kyle Emery, who kicked 61 goals in that competition over summer, and Gold Coast top-up player Tom Hofert (three games this season). 

Sydney has also loaned Academy graduates Reed van Huisstede (10 games) and Pierce Roseby (one) to the Bombers alongside McCartin, while Southport (Ashton Crossley, Ryan Gilmore and Corey Joyce) and Gold Coast (Tom Hofert) have also lent a hand. 

Essendon will of course be without all its VFL-listed players, including co-captains Joe Atley and Danny Younan, plus Nick O’Kearney, Sam McLarty and Kyle Dunkley, while Cian McBride is in quarantine after attending the Wallabies rugby Test in Melbourne. 

The Bombers have named Aaron Francis and Gleeson to return from injury for the clash, while Dylan Shiel, David Zaharakis and Alec Waterman could also play. 

It all means Southport suddenly faces a danger game against the Bombers as it looks to move back to the top of the VFL ladder and solidify its hold on a top-two position. 

The high-flying Sharks, who have won six in a row including four by more than 100 points, have received a significant boost of their own, with big man Brayden Crossley making his return from a quad injury, having only missed one game since being injured in round 10. 

The match will be shown live and free on Kayo Freebies from 12pm on Sunday. 

In a nod to the support Sydney received when similarly undermanned in Melbourne in recent weeks, the Swans have also loaned a host of key players to Greater Western Sydney in an extended squad for its clash with Brisbane. 

They include young stars Logan McDonald and Dylan Stephens, midfielder Lewis Taylor and tall forward Hayden McLean (should they not make the final 22 for Sydney’s AFL team), as well as Academy prodigy Braeden Campbell, prime movers Ryan Clarke and Sam Gray, defenders Lewis Melican, Kaiden Brand, Will Gould and Barry O’Connor, ruckman Lachlan McAndrew and first-year players Marc Sheather and Malachy Carruthers.  

The VFL has a rule in place (below) that allows for players to be loaned between clubs to allow a full team of 22 to be selected when exceptional circumstances don’t allow that to happen. 

5. VFL Top Up Players
If at any time a VFL Club’s Senior list of players becomes insufficient for that Club to select its Senior team, and the Competitions Manager is satisfied that the lack of availability of players is caused by reason of illness, injury or other exceptional reasons, the Competitions Manager may in respect of any given round of VFL matches, allow the affected Club to temporarily draw upon non-listed players over 18 years of age, to be called "VFL Top Up Players", to be registered and to play for that Club for one week only. Payment for such players can be determined by the VFL Club and must be included in the VFL Club’s salary cap. 

GWS has named Jeremy Finlayson at full forward after he was dropped from the AFL team, but Stephen Coniglio and Tanner Bruhn (AFL), Matt Flynn (shoulder), Matt de Boer, Kieren Briggs and Jake Stein (quarantine) are among the outs. 

The Lions have been boosted by the return of Cam Ellis-Yolmen and Brock Smith from injury, while Rhys Mathieson and Keidean Coleman come in from the AFL team to replace the promoted Ryan Lester and Tom Fullarton. 

Aspley has lost midfielder Jack Rolls, stalwart Reece Toye and Tom Baulch for its return to action against Gold Coast at Graham Road on Saturday, but will be boosted by William Gowers, James Nelis and Tom Jeffrey among five changes. 

The Suns will be without Liston medallist Jacob Townsend, midfielder Lachie Weller and key defender Jack Hombsch as they seek their fourth win of the year, but have recalled their Queensland VFL-listed contingent headed by Jack Johnston and Aiden Fyfe to replace the NAB League loaners they used when in Melbourne.

Twitter: @BRhodesVFL 

ASPLEY v. GOLD COAST
Saturday, July 24, 11.05am @ Graham Road Oval (Kayo Freebies, 11am) 

ASPLEY
B: 18. J. Arnold, 28. J. Lipscombe, 34. I. Corvo
HB: 41. J. Craven, 25. J. Nelis, 24. L. Dawson
C: 9. J.  Allison, 4. R.  Bastinac, 19. D.  Smith
HF: 43. L. O'Sullivan, 17. J. Freeman, 8. M. Payne
F: 10. C. Stackelberg, 11. M. Hammelmann, 22. T. Templeton
R: 20. M. Eagles, 7. C. Lyons, 1. W. Gowers
Int: 26. R. Banks-Smith, 16. J. Giles, 2. J. Hayden, 27. T. Jeffrey

Emg: 37. W. Peppin, 30. J. Warren, 6. E. Wasley-Black, 33. W. Wolbers

In: Gowers, Jeffrey, Nelis, O’Sullivan, Smith 
Out: T. Baulch, J. Rolls, R. Toye, Warren, Wasley-Black 
 
GOLD COAST
B: 5. J. Harbrow, 42. P. Murtagh, 58. J. Johnston 
HB: 43. J. McLennan, 50. J. Farrar, 45. L. Towey 
C: 31. J. Murdoch, 7. W. Brodie, 52. B. Reeves 
HF: 44. D. MacPherson, 40. J. Jeffrey, 47. H. Oea 
F: 60. W. Bella, 49. N. Moyle, 56. J. Foggo 
R: 32. Z. Smith, 36. E. Hollands, 30. A. Davies 
Inter: 33. A. Fyfe, 51. A. Harris, 41. M. Rosas, 57. B. Uwland 

Emerg: 54. F. Brown, 55. B. Little, 53. M. Pescud, 59. R. Pickering 
*AFL emergencies underlined 

In: Bella, Foggo, Fyfe, Harris, Johnston, Reeves, Uwland 
Out: F. Cameron, J. Hombsch, L. Kidd, B. Milford, J. Townsend, L. Wagener, L. Weller

Prediction: Aspley by 9

SOUTHPORT v. ESSENDON
Sunday, July 25, 12.05pm @ Fankhauser Reserve (Kayo Freebies, 12pm)

SOUTHPORT
B: 12. R. Clark, 8. S. Tape, 32. M. Gahan
HB: 19. T. Fields, 24. B. Crossley, 14. B. Murdoch
C: 34. B.  Gowers, 29. K.  Boakye, 25. J.  Joyce
HF: 17. M. Johnson, 16. C. Nutting, 4. M. Manteit
F: 5. A. Boston, 26. L. Webb, 36. B. Lynch
R: 30. J. Hall, 3. J. Dawson, 1. B. Scheer
Int: 35. R. King, 20. T. Miller, 42. M. Selsby, 10. M. Willis

Emg: 23. D. Charlesworth, 33. M. Doran, 71. R. Gilmore, 37. R. Gilmore, 71. R. Gilmore, 37. R. Gilmore, 28. J. Williams

In: Crossley, Hall 
Out: R. Davis, J. Turner

ESSENDON
B: 38. C. Brand, 30. B. Zerk-Thatcher, 54. P. McCartin 
HB: 8. M. Gleeson, 50. A. Rance, 36. L. Johnson 
C: 56. A. Ankers, 67. C. Ilett, 68. C. Burgess 
HF: 28. N. Cahill, 69. K. Emery, 49. T. Hird 
F: 10. A. Francis, 32. J. Eyre, 58. R. van Huisstede 
R: 24. N. Bryan, 37. D. Clarke, 11. D. Zaharakis 
Inter: 60. T. Hofert, 76. C. Joyce, 55. P. Roseby, 75. A. Crossley, 12. T. Cutler, 42. S. Durham, 71. R. Gilmore, 35. M. Guelfi, 33. B. Ham, 5. D. Shiel, 45. A. Waterman, J. Collopy 
*AFL extended team underlined

In: Cutler, Francis, Gleeson, Guelfi, Shiel, Waterman, Zaharakis (Essendon), Hofert (Gold Coast), Crossley, Gilmore, Joyce (Southport), McCartin, Roseby, van Huisstede (Sydney), Ankers, Burgess, Collopy, Emery, Ilett, Rance 
Out: C. McBride (Qld quarantine), J. Atley, K. Dunkley, J. Hickman, J. Hobbs, S. McLarty, B. Morgan, N. O’Kearney, M. Simpson, J. Sutton, D. Thompson, D. Younan (Vic lockdown)

Prediction: Southport by 19 

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY v. BRISBANE
Sunday, July 25, 12.30pm @ Council Training Ground, Metricon Stadium

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY
B: 21. M. Buntine, 46. C. Brown, 77. S. Frost
HB: M. Carruthers, 29. C. Fleeton, 10. J. Wehr
C: B.  Campbell, R.  Clarke, D.  Stephens
HF: S. Gray, 73. H. Grintell, M. Sheather
F: 63. J. Green, 31. J. Finlayson, 71. F. Kelly
R: L. McAndrew, 34. N. Shipley, 75. M. Monaghan
Int: 7. L. Ash, K. Brand, W. Gould, L. McDonald, H. Mclean, L. Melican, B. O'Connor, 33. X. O'Halloran, 45. J. Peatling, 50. S. Reid, 26. J. Riccardi, 28. Z. Sproule, L. Taylor
*AFL (GWS & Syd) extended interchange underlined

In: Ash, Finlayson, Reid (AFL); Brand, Campbell, Carruthers, Clarke, Gould, Gray, McAndrew, McDonald, McLean, Melican, O’Connor, Sheather, Stephens, Taylor (Sydney) 
Out: T. Bruhn, S. Coniglio (AFL), M. Flynn (shoulder), K. Briggs, M. de Boer, J. Stein (Qld quarantine), W. Shaw, T. Hutchesson 
 
BRISBANE
B: 48. T. Abberley, 60. H. Arnold, 1. B. Smith
HB: 18. K. Coleman, 38. C. Ballenden, 39. C. Michael
C: 20. J.  Prior, 32. T.  Joyce, 49. B.  Reville
HF: 34. B. Coleman, 26. C. McFadyen, 41. D. Uosis
F: 13. T. Berry, 19. H. Smith, 28. C. Ellis-Yolmen
R: 44. A. Smith, 36. R. Mathieson, 8. E. Smith
Int: 12. N. Cockatoo, 50. S. Crozier, 45. K. Lane, 52. T. Triffett

Emg: 54. W. Barry, 58. C. Bowes, 51. J. Langborne, 56. W. Tasker
*AFL emergencies underlined  

In: K. Coleman, Ellis-Yolmen, Mathieson, B. Smith 
Out: T. Fullarton, R. Lester (AFL), Barry, Tasker

Prediction: GWS by 30

BYE: Box Hill Hawks, Carlton, Casey Demons, Coburg, Collingwood, Footscray, Frankston, Geelong, Northern Melbourne, Northern Bullants, Port Melbourne, Richmond, Sandringham, Sydney, Werribee, Williamstown

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