“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
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...