Richmond premiership player Alex Rance has confirmed he will be reuniting with Damien Hardwick at the Gold Coast Suns - but as a coach rather than player. Rumours have been rife that Rance would come out of retirement and link up with former Tigers coach Hardwick at the Suns.
During his induction into the WA Football Hall of Fame on Monday night, Rance confirmed the reports he's heading to the Gold Coast. However he revealed he will be part of Hardwick's backroom staff, rather than coming out of retirement as a player.
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“I will be at the Suns next year, yeah for sure,” Rance said. “I won’t be playing. I will do something at the Suns, I am working with ‘Dimma’ and the management staff on what that looks like and I think it probably lends itself more to the key-position craft, cultural stuff, which I really enjoyed.
“That is still a bit more ‘TBC’, but (we are) working through the finer details. Dimma is building his little band up there and I think it is going to be really exciting times.”
The 34-year-old Rance retired from the AFL in 2019. Last week, Melbourne great Garry Lyon said rumours linking Rance to the Suns were “catching fire” and read out a text message on SEN radio saying: “I confirm that’s the word around the Gold Coast members. He’s up here now. He’s been around the club.” But Lyon added: “I don’t know whether people are putting one and one together and coming up with 50.”
Former Tigers teammate Trent Cotchin said about Rance: “Maybe there’s a twinkling heartbeat there. But the game is very hard and he is a little bit older than when he did leave it. In saying that, I have seen recent pictures of his rig and he is in good nick. It is just whether or not he has the appetite to do it.”
Shaun Grigg, another former Richmond premiership player, has already been poached by Hardwick to join him at the Suns. Grigg has been working as an assistant at Geelong.
Dustin Martin spotted on Gold Coast with Damien Hardwick
Speculation has also been rife that Hardwick will attempt to lure Dustin Martin to the Suns when he comes off contract with Richmond. The coach hosed down the talk about Martin when he was unveiled as Gold Coast coach last month.
However the rumours will only intensify after Martin and Hardwick were spotted together on the Gold Coast last week. Mitch Cleary of 7News broke the story last Thursday night, showing Martin and his former coach catching up. Martin has been on the Gold Coast for an end-of-season holiday, but some believe there could be more to the trip north than meets the eye.
— 7AFL (@7AFL) September 7, 2023
“How about this photo - snapped just this afternoon,” Cleary said. “An interesting sub-plot (to the finals) as Dusty weighs up what comes next for him. It is seen by the Suns that he will stay at Richmond but one to watch as the silly season begins to heat up on the back of the finals series.”
Martin is contracted to the Tigers until the end of 2024. Discussing speculation he will look to lure his former player to the Gold Coast, Hardwick previously said he would respect Martin's current contract situation.
“Is it some pre-retirement fun to go up there (and play for Gold Coast) and enjoy the sunshine at the very end of his career?" Cotchin said last week. "I’m not sure (but) I know that one of his values is loyalty.”
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