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'I would never be able to forgive myself': Rance explains why comeback hopes have been shelved

Richmond's champion defender Alex Rance told teammates that it would have been selfish to attempt to play this year given the risks for the club if he suffered another injury.

Rance told teammates on Wednesday that he would not be returning in 2019 from his knee reconstruction in late March, in a decision that was based on medical advice and which Rance accepted.

Richmond's Alex Rance.

Richmond's Alex Rance.Credit:Eddie Jim

The Tigers had told Rance months earlier that he had little prospect of returning and the club had long held the view that it wouldn't happen in 2019, but Rance continued to train and prepare for the possibility, although he knew the odds were slim.

The club's view - based on medical advice, including from his orthopedic surgeon Julian Feller - is that there was too great a risk of the graft in the knee not holding up if a player returned after five months, which would be the case if Rance played in the first week of the finals.

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Rance also told the Tigers that he would not forgive himself if he went down with another knee injury during finals and damaged the club's premiership chances.

Rance told the players of the situation at one of their "Richmond man'' meetings - which foster connections between players.

Rance explained his position in a video the club put out on its website.

"I wasn’t willing to risk ... the game-day emotional toll that a re-injury could have taken," Rance said.

"If I came back in a final and ruptured my knee and that cost us that game, then I would never be able to forgive myself. That’s something that I couldn’t really live with."

Rance said his body and movement were going well, but there were doubts whether the graft was ready. "The thing that I couldn’t control, and no one really can, is the graft itself and how well that knits within my knee," he said.

"That’s one thing that’s a real unknown and something that the club and I had to think good and hard about – whether we were going to take that risk or not."

Senior coach Damien Hardwick spoke after Rance, commending the All-Australian defender for his selfless attitude.

Rance ruptured the ACL in the opening round against Carlton, back on March 22, meaning his period out would reach five months a few days before Richmond's final round clash with the Brisbane Lions.

The Tigers are in a far healthier situation than they were earlier this season, when Rance was joined on the injured list by fellow club greats Jack Riewoldt and Trent Cotchin, with number one ruckman Toby Nankervis also down for a lengthy stretch.

Nankervis is likely to return to the senior team this weekend against Carlton after coming back via the VFL, and the hope is that Cotchin - who has had a succession of hamstring issues - would play the following weekend against West Coast, although this is not assured.

Cotchin's latest hamstring strain was relatively minor, but because of his repeated issues with the hamstring this year, the Tigers are exercising considerable caution in the lead-in to the finals.

Tyson Goldsack managed to return to Collingwood's side for the finals last year after only a slightly longer period than Rance's recovery - the Magpie had his ACL injury in February - but the club's loss of key defenders opened up the opportunity for him to play in September, including the grand final.

Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.

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