Tigers look to youth to help cover Rance

Dylan Grimes helped cover for the absence of Alex Rance at the Richmond Tigers in 2019.
Dylan Grimes helped cover for the absence of Alex Rance at the Richmond Tigers in 2019.

So what now for Richmond following Alex Rance's shock AFL retirement?

Tigers chief executive Brendon Gale spoke to reporters at Punt Road just hours after the surprise announcement and preferred to celebrate the champion defender's career rather than delve too deeply into the impact his loss will have on the field.

What he did confirm was that Rance will remain on the club's list next year due to the timing of his retirement, and that he would leave big shoes to fill.

Having just romped to the 2019 premiership without their star defender, the Tigers are still heading into 2020 in good shape.

Bookmakers still have Richmond as outright favourites for next year's flag, they're just not quite as red hot.

Rance's defensive teammates like Dylan Grimes, David Astbury, Bachar Houli and Nick Vlastuin lifted to cover his absence this year.

They will need to do the same next season and hope someone like Noah Balta can grasp an opportunity.

The athletically-gifted but raw tall is yet to make a position his own and he would appear to be one of the first in line to get a crack at helping fill the void.

"I think the positive here is that by the power of his example, he's set a very high standard and benchmark for others to follow," Gale said of Rance.

"We've got some exciting young kids who have the opportunity to come up and take the bull by the horns."

Grimes and company have demonstrated that they can cover for Rance on the field, but he was still a big part of proceedings behind the scenes while he rehabbed his knee.

Gale said the 30-year-old, part of the leadership group since 2016, was key in helping create the club's successful culture and will be missed.

"As talented and as combative and competitive as he was on the field, he was a real leader and a connector," he said.

"And a leader in the locker room.

"He's mad, I don't understand him, but he lifts the place.

"He's one of those guys who creates energy.

"Things happen. They happen on the field, you see that, but they happen off the field as well."

Gale said that Rance's contract will be "amended", which could allow the Tigers to make a splash in free agency next year as they did so successfully in luring Tom Lynch from Gold Coast.

Australian Associated Press