Alex Rance rules out AFL comeback

Former Richmond star Alex Rance returned to football with an appearance for Essendon's VFL side.
Former Richmond star Alex Rance returned to football with an appearance for Essendon's VFL side.

Alex Rance has emphatically ruled out an AFL comeback after starring in a one-off appearance at state-league level.

The one-time Richmond premiership defender suited up for Essendon's VFL side against Southport on Sunday to help fill out the team sheet.

The Bombers are temporarily based in Queensland and had just 10 AFL-listed players available because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Rance looked fit and moved well, gathering 18 disposals and four marks in a familiar defensive role, as Essendon's patchwork side fell just short in a 11.9 (75) to 10.11 (71) defeat.

It was the 31-year-old's first game at such a level since he suffered a serious knee injury in what turned out to be his 200th and final game for Richmond in round one, 2019.

Rance announced his retirement later that year after the Tigers had gone on to belt GWS in the grand final without him.

He had only just turned 30 at the time but said he wanted to move away from the game to focus on family and religion.

The VFL appearance triggered speculation Rance could attempt a comeback at the highest level, with Richmond coach Damien Hardwick backing the defender to make a good fist of it if he tried.

But Rance ended the comeback talk in an Instagram post after Sunday's match.

"This is not a comeback," Rance said in the post.

"Playing for the Essendon VFL this weekend was simply a happy accident and a one-time thing.

"I was visiting my family on the Gold Coast and with Covid restrictions the VFL needed some fill ins."

Rance added: "I love the life balance I have now, with my priorities shifting and professional football not dominating my life."

Rance was joined in Essendon's VFL team by 2014 No.1 draft pick Paddy McCartin, who is attempting his own AFL comeback through Sydney's reserves side and was on loan to the Bombers for the game against Southport.

Former St Kilda forward McCartin, who battled repeated concussion issues during his time with the Saints, kicked 3.2 from 10 disposals.

Essendon's Aaron Francis played his first match since being granted leave in June for personal reasons.

Francis kicked the first goal in the opening minute of the match and finished with 15 disposals and eight marks in an encouraging display.

Australian Associated Press