Richmond assistant coach Justin Leppitsch has revealed he campaigned against trading a young Alex Rance to Hawthorn at the end of the 2010 season.
Rance was drafted to Richmond in 2007 and struggled to keep his balance and find consistency under then-coach Terry Wallace.
When Damien Hardwick took over as senior coach in 2010, the two-time premiership coach half-jokes he was ready to trade Rance for a six-pack of beer.
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“Yeah, it’s true,” he said.
“Dimma rang me about it, 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’.”
Rance would eventually develop into a five-time All-Australian, 2015 best and fairest and a premiership player in 2017, before his shock retirement at the end of last year at just 30 years of age with 200 games to his name.
Asked about any potential return to the game for Rance, Leppitsch suggested it may not be to Richmond on the off-chance it did happen.
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“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,” he said.
“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.”
With Rance and Geelong legend Matthew Scarlett constantly cited as the two greatest defenders of the 21st century, Leppitsch, a triple All-Australian defender in his own right, said Rance was Scarlett’s equal.
“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.”
Leppitsch also revealed a secret pact with Hardwick that could’ve seen him head to Brisbane.