AAP AFL

Door ajar for Rance AFL return: Hardwick

By AAP Newswire

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick says he would love to see Alex Rance backflip on his retirement but concedes the ball is in the former AFL defender's court.

Rance, a devout Jehovah's Witness, announced his retirement from AFL in December to focus on his family and his religion.

On Thursday, defender Bachar Houli said he prayed Rance would return to the Tigers but emphasised his desire for his former teammate to be happy - sentiments echoed by Hardwick.

"At this stage he's retired in our plans but plans can change," Hardwick said on Friday.

"My more important thing is to make sure Alex is happy in his journey in life and Alex has always been an incredible player for us but his family and his faith have been at the forefront of his mind and the reality is, whatever makes Alex happy, makes us happy.

"He's been a significant contributor of our football club, always will be a Richmond man.

"Is the door ajar? Well probably it is but the ball's in Alex's court from that point of view. But look, we're moving on from a planning point of view that he won't be available - but as I said, things may change."

Hardwick said while he would have liked to get more years out of Rance, he wasn't completely blindsided by the five-time All-Australian's decision.

"We have had some conversations over the last 2-3 years with regard to this and we probably thought it may come to this at some stage and it has," he said.

There were minimal social media posts from Richmond players paying tribute to Rance in the immediate aftermath of his retirement but Hardwick said that was more about his players being more engaged in person, rather than choosing not to post on social media.

"I know we probably copped a little bit of flak with regard to that but it's not how our club operates. We tend to leave the phones at home and the phones where they are," he said.

"The more and more we hug, we love - all that sort of stuff is very much a part of us.

"(Rance) knows exactly how we feel about him, how important he is to the fabric of our organisation. So he'll be heavily missed, not only as a football player, but as a person."