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Rance a perfect priority pick

Best of Rance Watch Alex Rance's career highlights.

Alex Rance is a shining example of just how beneficial a priority pick can prove to be for an AFL club.

The man now widely regarded as the best key defender of league football’s modern era, was Richmond’s compensation for having finished last in season 2007 with just three wins and a draw.

The Tigers were given a priority pick at the end of the first round of the 2007 national draft, and couldn’t believe their luck when the athletic, young Western Australian tall defender was still available.

They had closely tracked Rance’s advancement throughout what was a fine 2007 season for him.

He excelled for WA in the under-18 national championships, was subsequently selected in the under-18 All-Australian team, and also made his senior debut for WAFL club Swan Districts.

Long-time AFL National Talent Manager Kevin Sheehan provided this assessment of young Rance in the lead-up to the 2007 national draft . . .

“He’s a dasher and he’s been a revelation this year; he’s much improved.  He’s one of those defenders who is prepared to take them on and provide that dash out of defence and break the lines.  He’s one who really enhanced his prospects with his three performances as a tall defender at the championships,” Sheehan said.

And, as the son of former Footscray and West Coast key defender Murray Rance, he had a pretty decent football pedigree, too.

Alex Rance has re-committed to the Club for a further two years

At one stage, Rance was being mooted as a potential top-10 selection in the ’07 national draft, so the Tigers were over the moon that he slipped through to them at pick 18 overall.

It’s fair to say, however, that Rance was a ‘slow burn’ at Tigerland.

He started off in 2008 playing reserve-grade football for Coburg, which was Richmond’s VFL affiliate at the time.

Rance then graduated to senior level at Coburg and, despite showing some encouraging signs there, spent the entire 2008 season in the VFL.

In Round 2, 2009, Rance made his AFL debut with the Tigers against Geelong at Kardinia Park, aged 19 years and 177 days. He had 18 disposals and took six marks in a promising first-up performance.

Despite making 15 senior appearances overall in his debut season at the game’s highest level, it wasn’t until 2011 that Rance went from being a fringe player to one of the first selected in the Richmond side.  He developed into a crucial member of the Tigers’ defence that season, inspiring teammates with his courage and fierce attack on the football.

Not only did Rance consistently nullify the opposition’s best key forwards, he relished the chance to run off them and initiate attacking moves for the Tigers.  He also earned a big tick for his much-improved composure and decision-making. 

Rance was rewarded for his efforts with a new two-year contract and received due recognition from the Club’s coaches, winning the Most Improved Player award at the 2011 Jack Dyer Medal presentation night. 

Since then, Rance’s stocks have soared to such a lofty height that he’s now in rarefied air as an outstanding key defender.

He’s been selected in the All-Australian side for the past four years, was appointed All-Australian captain in 2017, is a Jack Dyer Medallist (2015), and has a Richmond premiership medal (2017).

That 2007 priority pick clearly was worth its weight in football gold for the Tigers.