Hawthorn greats Jason Dunstall and Dermott Brereton say Richmond shouldn’t risk key defender Alex Rance long-term by rushing him back for the end of the season.
Rance has been sidelined since Round 1 after rupturing his ACL in the opening round.
But the star defender has been making a rapid return, to the point where if he’s cleared by his surgeon, he could feature later in the season.
But Dunstall said the risk was not worth the potential reward, emphasising how much better Rance would be next year after more time to rehabilitate.
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“Absolutely not in my opinion,” Dunstall said on Fox Footy’s AFL 360.
“And I’m a little bit different to what a a lot of people are thinking.
“Look, this guy’s a superstar, I understand that, and flags don’t come around too often and he probably wants to have a crack at it — I understand that.
“But there are three points that I cannot get away from when I weigh up the pros and cons.
“He’s too valuable to risk. And it is a risk, because even if the surgeon says ‘yes’ — I’ve had a couple of recos, I can tell you for a fact — six months, or four to six months down the track, with an off-season and another pre-season under his belt, he will be better, absolutely guarantee.
“Now he lacks match fitness when he comes back. And we’re not just talking match fitness, we’re talking finals intensity — which is a step up from your normal match fitness. So make no bones about that.
“And finally, as good as he is, you can’t expect him to come straight back in and play at the level that we know he can play at.
“So all that together, I think they’ve got themselves in a position to win the flag, Richmond, it doesn’t hinge on Rancey. I’d love to see him out there and be a part of it but if I’m Richmond, I’m saying ‘mate, this is a risk we don’t need to take.’”
Former Hawthorn teammate Brereton agreed, saying the risk wasn’t worth potentially losing the key defender for another season — including in terms of wages.
“If Alex Rance didn’t exist, Richmond are still challenging this year,” Brereton said.
“They don’t have to have him out there to get right to the sharp end. So that’s the first way of looking at it.
“I’d agree with (Dunstall), but if I can be really coarse, Alex is on about $800k a year, I would imagine? Thereabouts?
“So you’ve had half a game’s return for $800k this year.
“If the worst happens, and he does it (his knee) sometime between now and next season, then you’ve had $1.6m, over $1.5m worth of footballer for zero return.
“So that’s the coarse look at it.”
Brereton said while the “romantic” view was to challenge for a grand final if possible, the Tigers were still well and truly capable of winning the flag without Rance — and should contend for years to come.
“The romantic view of it is the way that we heard Nick Riewoldt speak about it — ‘they don’t come around every day,’” Brereton said.
“I think you could make a balanced assessment on that and say that ‘yeah, you’re right, they don’t come around every day’ — but Richmond are gonna challenge again next year.
“I think their list is good enough to be top four for at least the next two years.
“He’s a huge investment. He’s the best backman in the comp. Just don’t do it for one game — to get him back for one game. You’re hoping he gets back for a grand final, that’s what you’re really hoping for, aren’t you?
“But he’s got all of next year and there’s a massive investment in him.”