“I just want ev­ery­one to be happy”

AFL star Alex Rance has mined his footy team’s scan­dal in the name of art – and the re­sult is the un­like­li­est of out­comes: a chil­dren’s book

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contetns - Photograph­y IAN CUR­RIE In­ter­view KATY HALL Tiger’s Roar (Allen & Un­win, $19.99) is out on Wed­nes­day.

AFL star Alex Rance has en­joyed a sto­ried ca­reer on the field – and now he has even used his team’s scan­dal as ma­te­rial for a new chil­dren’s book.

Writ­ing a chil­dren’s book may not seem the most ob­vi­ous of things for an AFL player to have on their bucket list. But then again, Alex Rance is not quite your av­er­age sports­man.

“It’s some­thing I’ve al­ways wanted to do,” the 28-year-old Rich­mond Tigers key de­fender says of his de­but ti­tle, Tiger’s Roar. “I’ve al­ways had a pretty child­ish mind, and I wasn’t a big reader grow­ing up. So that’s prob­a­bly why it’s a chil­dren’s book – and not a bi­og­ra­phy!”

The fa­ble was writ­ten while Rance was on hol­i­day in Africa with his wife Ge­or­gia in the weeks fol­low­ing Rich­mond’s his­toric 2017 Grand Fi­nal win. And it fol­lows a tiger who, af­ter fall­ing from a tree and los­ing his roar, turns to his jun­gle friends for help.

It was an idea he’d been toy­ing around with for sev­eral months – and an un­apolo­getic par­al­lel to the year Rance and his team had in the lead-up to his fi­nally de­cid­ing to sit down and

put pen to pa­per. “My wife was feel­ing sick while we were on hol­i­day, so while she had a lie down, I sort of just threw out some very ba­sic ideas and some lines that I then sent to my man­ager and asked him if he thought they were any good,” he tells Stel­lar.

Rance has spent the past 10 years on the field at Rich­mond Foot­ball Club and was last year named as co-vice cap­tain of the team. He is also a four-time All-aus­tralian, one-time All-aus­tralian cap­tain, and the win­ner of Rich­mond’s best-and-fairest award in 2015. One of the league’s most suc­cess­ful play­ers to date, he is widely known for his easy­go­ing na­ture. In other words, peo­ple sim­ply like the guy.

“I just al­ways want ev­ery­one to be happy and hav­ing fun,” Rance ex­plains, point­ing to his role in the team’s lead­er­ship group. And when Rance talks about his for­ma­tive years in West­ern Aus­tralia, you don’t doubt it – they were an idyl­lic mix of bush ad­ven­tures and ex­treme sports, where rid­ing horses and mo­tor­bikes with his sis­ter Alianne one day was fol­lowed by cricket, triathlons and vol­ley­ball the next. Yet a ca­reer in foot­ball wasn’t some­thing he had in mind when grow­ing up, de­spite the fact that his fa­ther, Mur­ray Rance, was a for­mer West Coast Ea­gles cap­tain. “It was some­thing I al­most fell into,” Rance in­sists. “I thought I was go­ing to be a land­scape ar­chi­tect.”

In the end, though, AFL quickly be­came “this cool piece of com­mon­al­ity that my dad and I had. Af­ter a game, we’d clean my boots to­gether and just sit on the step out­side and talk about the game. And there was no crit­i­cism or pros and cons of f th the game; it was just fa­ther-son time. Some of my fond­est mem­o­ries are kick­ing the footy with my dad.”

One might pre­sume that hav­ing grown up in that en­vi­ron­ment, Rance had a premier­ship win at the top of his to-do list. But he main­tains last year’s tri­umph was as much of a sur­prise to him as it was to ev­ery­one else. “I never re­ally had this pre­con­ceived idea or this built-up ex­pec­ta­tion and ex­cite­ment of what it could be like to win a Grand Fi­nal. It was more like, if it hap­pens it hap­pens. But when it did hap­pen, it was like this eu­phoric mo­ment where you lit­er­ally think of noth­ing else but run­ning around like a child. For the next week, noth­ing else was im­por­tant. It was just pure eu­pho­ria and fun and love for each other.”

The heady rush wore off quickly. News soon broke that Rance’s team­mate, Nathan Broad, had dis­trib­uted an im­age imag of a top­less woman to his friends frien with­out her con­sent. In the shot, taken in the hours fol­low­ing the Grand Fi­nal, she wears his premier­ship medal. meda The story made head­lines and was said sa to have had “a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact” im­pac on the woman’s well­be­ing. Broad re­ceived a three-game sus­pen­sion sus­pen for his ac­tions.

Rance Ran is stoic about the fall­out. “Ev­ery­thing “Ev­eryt in life is an op­por­tu­nity to grow and an to learn… and when sit­u­a­tions like that tha oc­cur, it’s not a mat­ter of hang­ing hangi some­one out to dry. Ev­ery­one makes mis­takes and no-one’s per­fect, but it’s about learn­ing and mak­ing sure that, as a group, it doesn’t be­come some­thing that hap­pens again.”

In the end, it pro­vided Rance the open­ing he was look­ing for to fa­cil­i­tate a try at writ­ing. “Ob­vi­ously, [ Tiger’s Roar is] filled with themes from the year and things that made us suc­cess­ful. And if you look closely, you can find clues hid­den within the story about which char­ac­ters rep­re­sent cer­tain team­mates,” he says.

Whether his bur­geon­ing book­writ­ing ca­reer will take him away from the field re­mains un­clear, though Rance is keen to con­tinue his cre­ative pur­suits. He also ap­peared in an ad­ver­tise­ment last year called Crafted Moves, which fea­tured him danc­ing.

Pressed on fur­ther plans, he replies, “I wouldn’t say that this is go­ing to be­come a ca­reer that I do full-time, but… I don’t know. There’s a lot of pres­sure put on play­ers these days. Hav­ing other out­lets and pas­sions that you can tap into out­side of the game is re­ally im­por­tant.”

In the mean­time, Rance will wait and see if this first try kicks any goals, so to speak. “See­ing kids laugh and be happy, there’s no greater gift in the world,” he says. “So if my book can do that for some fam­i­lies or some kids, it wouldn’t mat­ter how many books I sold, just so long as it made them happy.”

“There’s a lot of pres­sure put on play­ers these days. Hav­ing other out­lets is re­ally im­por­tant”

EARN­ING HIS STRIPES (from far left) Alex Rance (cen­tre right) cel­e­brat­ing Rich­mond’s 2017 Grand Fi­nal win with (from left) Kam­dyn Mcin­tosh, Nick Vlas­tuin and Nathan N Broad; danc­ing in ad­ver­tise­ment Crafted Moves; with wife Ge­or­gia at the 2014...

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