Tigers face tough questions after Rance injury
RICHMOND star Alex Rance requires a knee reconstruction after confirmation he has ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament.
Rance had scans Friday morning in which the club's worst fears were realised.
He will meet a surgeon on Friday with a view to having the reconstruction performed in the coming days.
The Tigers had been bracing for the bad news, with footy manager Neil Balme acknowledging the 29-year-old's positive outlook despite the diagnosis.
"We're really disappointed for Alex that he'll spend an extended period of time out of the game, he's a wonderful player and fantastic leader of our team," Balme said.
"Alex, to his credit, has been incredibly positive since the injury occurred, and we'll continue to rally around him in the coming days and throughout his rehab process.
"While we'll miss his on-field contribution this season, we know he'll apply the same dedication and discipline to his rehab and recovery, and we will continue to provide our ongoing support to him."
Speaking Friday morning as he headed in for scans, Rance - who said the deflating blow was "still pretty raw" - was resigned to missing the remainder of 2019 but thanked fans and rival players for an outpouring of support.
"I've had some amazing outreaches of love," Rance said.
"Daisy Thomas, Paddy McCartin, Scott Pendlebury, Trav Boak, Cal Ward … there's been a heap more, sorry if I've missed anybody who reached out.
"It really does show that there's a lot of family in footy, and as much as we're competitors and fierce rivals, there's still so much love. Nobody wants to see anyone go down and I really do appreciate that. I know my teammates love and care for me, so I'm very grateful for that."
Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said his "heart sank" when told it was suspected Rance, a five-time All Australian, had damaged the ACL in his right knee.
Hardwick said some of Rance's teammates were in tears after the match.
"It's a suspected ACL at this point which is incredibly disappointing. We'll cross our fingers … but it's dire at the moment," Hardwick said.
"But a measure of the man, you wouldn't know it by his demeanour, he's such an incredible person first and foremost. But he's an incredible player and you hate to see those players go out of the game.
"Even when he went down, I didn't see it, I didn't want to look. Your heart just sinks, you have been through a lot with this guy, been through a journey, then to have it taken away from you in round one, it is disappointing.
"We walk away with four points but we certainly walk away disappointed we lost a warrior.
Rance conceded after the match that initial signs "weren't good".
"I will find out the severity. The initial signs don't look too good," he said.
"But I'm in a great team, we've got a great culture and I don't have too much to be sad about."
On crutches with his knee packed in ice, Rance was comforted by every teammate in the rooms after the Tigers' season-opening 33-point win over the Blues.
Hardwick said the loss of Rance presented a massive challenge for the Tigers, but not one they couldn't overcome.
"He's a champion of the game, one of the best fullbacks I have ever seen. But sides have shown in history, last year West Coast, Natanui goes down, these things can be overcome," he said.
"It's disappointing to lose such a fantastic payer but it also provides an opportunity for someone else to get some games under their belt. We get to find a player.
"Are they going to be Alex Rance's standard? They are not going to be straight away. It's very hard to replace an Alex Rance."
Hardwick said the playing group would rally around Rance, and each other, to focus on the challenge ahead.
"Our group are very mentally strong in a lot of these areas. They have a good program in place which helps them deal with these situations.
"They accept it, they acknowledge it, and they move on. That's not to say they don't feel pain, we've got guys in tears knowing they have lost a comrade possibly for 12 months. It's incredibly difficult. We'll work our way through it.
Hardwick nominated Ryan Garthwaite as a possible replacement for Rance, possibly even as soon as next week's clash with Collingwood.
"He's probably the guy that first comes to mind," he said.
"We'll look at him, and we might juggle a few things around."