Infotainment Factory: How Richmond can fill its Rance-sized void

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Friday, 22 March 2019

How Richmond can fill its Rance-sized void


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With Richmond confirming the news that most feared about Alex Rance's knee injury, the attention now turns to how the pre-season flag favourites can rebound.

Due to his elite ability to intercept the ball, Rance has become the lynchpin of the Tigers' back six, often kick-starting devastating counter-attacks which result in Tiger goals just seconds after opponents press.

According to Essendon legend Tim Watson, the injury to Rance is likely to cause the Tigers to change their entire game plan.

"There are 17 teams in the competition right now smoking the pipe because you have to plan to play against Rance and Richmond when you play the Tigers because he disrupts so much of what you’re trying to do when you go forward," Watson told SEN Breakfast.

Alex Rance

"They don’t have another player in their team, Richmond, that can replace the way Rance plays.

"They can change the way they play defensively but that means that alters their back six as well."

While Rance is undoubtedly one of the game's best defenders, as evidenced by his five consecutive All-Australian selections, Richmond's back six is far from a one-man band.

With the leader of the defence on the sidelines, the onus will fall on Dylan Grimes and David Astbury to step up in his absence.

Dylan Grimes

Both Grimes and Astbury will likely be handed the duties of guarding the opposition's best two forwards.

If Rance is the game's best intercept defender, then the Tigers have a ready-made clone in Grimes.

In his 10th season in the AFL, Grimes has steadily developed into one of the AFL's truly elite defensive players.

According to Champion Data, has Grimes won a remarkable 42 percent of his defensive contests, ranked equal No.1 of the top-50 players for contests defended.

Alex Rance

Additionally, Grimes rates elite for spoils and above average for intercept marks and intercept possessions.

If the Tigers want an example of overcoming adversity to win, they need not look any further than last year's premiers in the West Coast Eagles.

While the loss of Nic Naitanui and Andrew Gaff in the back half of the season were both bodyblows for the eventual premier, the absence of the star duo allowed the likes of Nathan Vardy and Grand Final hero Dom Sheed to step up and play career-best football.

In addition to Grimes and Astbury, the Tigers' back six also includes the class of Bachar Houli and another elite intercept defender in Nick Vlaustin who will both be expected to step up.

Bachar Houli

With Rance out of the lineup, the question turns to who slides into the Tigers' vaunted back six.

Of all the candidates, young defender Connor Menadue is probably the leading candidate to slot into the team along with Brandon Ellis.

Menadue, who was named an emergency for the Tigers in Round 1, played just five AFL games in 2018, but in his fifth season is primed for a breakout.

The 22-year-old changed his role in the VFL last season, moving from a winger into the back six where he rated above average for Champion Data in both intercept marks and intercept possessions.

Alex Rance

However, in the five games Menadue played, he struggled to have a similar impact. Tigers coach Damian Hardwick will hope that a strong off-season will have paid dividends for the youngster.

20-year-old Ryan Garthwaite is the other player worth considering for Hardwick.

While Garthwaite has struggled with an Achilles issue in the pre-season, standing at 192cm and weighing in at 91kg, he possesses the size to deal with the big key forwards.

Garthwaite made his debut for the Tigers last year, but played just two games in the AFL, spending the majority of his season in the VFL.

Tom Hawkins

In one of his two AFL games, Garthwaite was tasked with the job of defending Geelong spearhead Tom Hawkins and held him to two goals.

Garthwaite improved as an interceptor in the VFL last season, averaging 1.9 intercept marks and 5.6 intercept possessions per game, both increases from 2017 and in his third season, it may be the year his career takes a leap.

Make no mistake about it, Rance's injury is a massive blow for the Tigers and the permutations of the injury could well reverberate around the league and shift the balance of power as we know it.

But with the likes of Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch still in the lineup, underestimate the Tigers at your own peril.

With Richmond confirming the news that most feared about Alex Rance's knee injury, the attention now turns to how the pre-season flag favourites can rebound.

Due to his elite ability to intercept the ball, Rance has become the lynchpin of the Tigers' back six, often kick-starting devastating counter-attacks which result in Tiger goals just seconds after opponents press.

According to Essendon legend Tim Watson, the injury to Rance is likely to cause the Tigers to change their entire game plan.

"There are 17 teams in the competition right now smoking the pipe because you have to plan to play against Rance and Richmond when you play the Tigers because he disrupts so much of what you’re trying to do when you go forward," Watson told SEN Breakfast.

Alex Rance

"They don’t have another player in their team, Richmond, that can replace the way Rance plays.

"They can change the way they play defensively but that means that alters their back six as well."

While Rance is undoubtedly one of the game's best defenders, as evidenced by his five consecutive All-Australian selections, Richmond's back six is far from a one-man band.

With the leader of the defence on the sidelines, the onus will fall on Dylan Grimes and David Astbury to step up in his absence.

Dylan Grimes

Both Grimes and Astbury will likely be handed the duties of guarding the opposition's best two forwards.

If Rance is the game's best intercept defender, then the Tigers have a ready-made clone in Grimes.

In his 10th season in the AFL, Grimes has steadily developed into one of the AFL's truly elite defensive players.

According to Champion Data, has Grimes won a remarkable 42 percent of his defensive contests, ranked equal No.1 of the top-50 players for contests defended.

Alex Rance

Additionally, Grimes rates elite for spoils and above average for intercept marks and intercept possessions.

If the Tigers want an example of overcoming adversity to win, they need not look any further than last year's premiers in the West Coast Eagles.

While the loss of Nic Naitanui and Andrew Gaff in the back half of the season were both bodyblows for the eventual premier, the absence of the star duo allowed the likes of Nathan Vardy and Grand Final hero Dom Sheed to step up and play career-best football.

In addition to Grimes and Astbury, the Tigers' back six also includes the class of Bachar Houli and another elite intercept defender in Nick Vlaustin who will both be expected to step up.

Bachar Houli

With Rance out of the lineup, the question turns to who slides into the Tigers' vaunted back six.

Of all the candidates, young defender Connor Menadue is probably the leading candidate to slot into the team along with Brandon Ellis.

Menadue, who was named an emergency for the Tigers in Round 1, played just five AFL games in 2018, but in his fifth season is primed for a breakout.

The 22-year-old changed his role in the VFL last season, moving from a winger into the back six where he rated above average for Champion Data in both intercept marks and intercept possessions.

Alex Rance

However, in the five games Menadue played, he struggled to have a similar impact. Tigers coach Damian Hardwick will hope that a strong off-season will have paid dividends for the youngster.

20-year-old Ryan Garthwaite is the other player worth considering for Hardwick.

While Garthwaite has struggled with an Achilles issue in the pre-season, standing at 192cm and weighing in at 91kg, he possesses the size to deal with the big key forwards.

Garthwaite made his debut for the Tigers last year, but played just two games in the AFL, spending the majority of his season in the VFL.

Tom Hawkins

In one of his two AFL games, Garthwaite was tasked with the job of defending Geelong spearhead Tom Hawkins and held him to two goals.

Garthwaite improved as an interceptor in the VFL last season, averaging 1.9 intercept marks and 5.6 intercept possessions per game, both increases from 2017 and in his third season, it may be the year his career takes a leap.

Make no mistake about it, Rance's injury is a massive blow for the Tigers and the permutations of the injury could well reverberate around the league and shift the balance of power as we know it.

But with the likes of Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch still in the lineup, underestimate the Tigers at your own peril.

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