The 2019 ACL season got underway on March 21st with an entertaining clash at the MCG in front of 85,000 spectators, where Richmond Tigers got their campaign off to a fantastic start with a 97-64 victory over Carlton Blues. The Yellow Blacks had to dig deep throughout the fourth quarter in order to fend off a potential Carlton comeback, but their victory was overshadowed by the sight of Alex Rance leaving the field in agony. The early prognosis doesn’t look good for the five-time all Australian, with a suspected ACL problem, and fans are nervously awaiting further updates about their star defender.
— Sporting News Australia (@sportingnewsau) March 21, 2019
Richmond collected 72 points last season, finishing top of the AFL ladder, and Rance played a significant part in their success. They begin this campaign as $5.00 joint-favourites to win the 2019 Grand Final, and after kicking the first six goals of the game against Carlton, their place at the top of the Aussie Rules betting odds look wholly justified. Tom Lynch was superb on his AFL debut for the club, and had an immediate impact on the side. There were some questions surrounding his fitness ahead of their opener, but he looked perfectly at home in the yellow and black strip. There were also debuts for Noah Balta and midfielder Maverick Weller, with the latter adding his name to the scoresheet late in the game.
Despite plenty of positives, the game was overshadowed by Alex Rance’s nasty-looking injury. The talented full-back left the field in the third quarter clutching his knee, and looked visibly upset to be playing no further part in the game. He landed awkwardly on his right leg, and the normally durable defender was attended to by the medical team shortly before being helped off the pitch.
Alex Rance has injured his knee!
— Triple M Footy (@triplemfooty) March 21, 2019
Although it has yet to be confirmed, the early signs point towards an anterior cruciate ligament issue, which would see him miss a large chunk of the 2019 season. Richmond have plenty of strength in depth, but it would be a significant blow for the Tigers if their star man was unable to play any further part this calendar year.
Rance’s injury prompted a sea change in the game, with Richmond having all the run and all the play prior to the stoppage. However, despite this unlikely momentum shift, the Melbourne club managed to battle back and secure a hard-fought victory.
The defender told reporters after the game that “the initial signs don’t look too good,” yet the 29-year-old Perth-born star managed to remain philosophical and upbeat. He added: “I’m in a great team, and I don’t have too much to be sad about.”
Richmond have been reasonably lucky with injuries over the last couple of seasons, but Rance’s potential ACL issue is a huge blow to the club’s Grand Final hopes. They face a tough Collingwood outfit at the MCG on March 28th, and will almost certainly be without the services of Rance.
Supporters will be pleased to see their side get off to a winning start, but that victory could come at a significant cost. Andrew Rance is one of the most gifted defenders in the game, and he will be sorely missed if he’s forced to spend the remainder of the 2019 campaign on the sidelines.