Richmond premiership great Alex Rance is officially set to join forces with former Tigers coach Damien Hardwick again, with the Gold Coast Suns announcing the 34-year-old as the newest member of the AFL club's coaching staff. Gold Coast revealed on their social media page on Monday that Rance had become the newest member of Hardwick's coaching staff.
It puts to bed weeks of speculation that Rance and Hardwick were set to reunite on the Gold Coast, having won a premiership together as player and coach at Richmond in 2017. Rance then went on to miss the Tigers' 2019 flag because of a knee injury and retired in December that year, meaning he also missed out on Richmond's 2020 premiership success.
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The classy defender - who retired after a decorated 200-game career - has joined the Suns as a part-time leadership consultant. Rance says he's excited by the project at the Suns under Hardwick and firmly believes something special could be brewing at the footy club.
"From a football perspective, I was really excited to come to the Gold Coast, I really love the trajectory of the football club," Rance said in a statement on Monday. "I'm looking forward to working with the players and staff to help grow our leadership capacity.
"We have some great people at the Suns and evolving with them is something I am really excited about." Rance was regarded as one of the greatest defenders of the modern era and his experience and leadership qualities could prove invaluable to Hardwick, who takes over as Suns coach following the late-season sacking of Stuart Dew.
"Throughout his playing career, Alex proved himself to be the ultimate professional through his mental preparation and mindset which we believe is an area he can add value to our playing group off the field," Gold Coast's football manager Wayne Campbell said. "In his time with Richmond, Alex worked closely with Damien Hardwick and understands the program he is looking to implement at the Suns after spending many years as vice-captain and in the leadership group."
Welcome to the SUNS Alex Rance 🙌https://t.co/7cE6JmhtpF
— Gold Coast Suns (@GoldCoastSUNS) November 12, 2023
AFL fans react to Alex Rance announcement
Gold Coast's media team teased the news about Rance joining the club by sharing a photo of the 34-year-old in a Gold Coast guernsey to their social media pages with the caption: "Welcome to the Suns Alex Rance". The club quickly clarified that Rance was not joining in a playing capacity but after weeks of speculation that Hardwick may lure the AFL great out of retirement, some fans called out the club over the cheeky move.
Top tier pic bait
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshMedia) November 13, 2023
You almost got me haha.
— Turnover The Tape (@turnoverthetape) November 12, 2023
Round 1 lock gents why’s he in the kit?😂
— Liam (@Clarkeyy23) November 12, 2023
Ye old clickbait
— Jay Peeterman (@JayPeeterman) November 12, 2023
Why is he in playing kit if he isn’t playing.
— James 🇦🇺🧄🦕 (@RightDownUnder) November 12, 2023
— Gareth Wilson (@garethjwilson) November 12, 2023
Alex Rance and Damien Hardwick join forces again
Rance revealed during his induction into the WA Football Hall of Fame in September that he was ready to join the Gold Coast. “I will be at the Suns next year, yeah for sure,” Rance said at time.
“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.
The Suns have also extended their deal to play games in the Northern Territory for another three years. Gold Coast will play consecutive games in Darwin in 2024 with a round nine clash against North Melbourne to be followed by a round 10 showdown against Geelong.
The AFL also confirmed on Monday that Melbourne would again play a nominal home game in Alice Springs, namely a round 12 clash with the Fremantle Dockers. The full fixture list for the 2024 AFL season will be released later this week.
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