Two of Us: ‘When you take off the armour, its no longer survival of the fittest’

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Richmond Tigers fullback Alex Rance (left), 29, and key forward Jack Riewoldt, 30, butted heads when they first met. The injured AFL stars are now almost as close as brothers, supporting one another through rehab.

Alex Rance: "We've become really close mates the past couple of years. I saw that the person I was chafing against for so long was exactly the same as me."

Alex Rance: "We've become really close mates the past couple of years. I saw that the person I was chafing against for so long was exactly the same as me."Credit:Justin McManus

ALEX: Jack was already an extrovert – quite similar to me – when I first joined the club in 2007. He'd been here a year, and was already playing really good football. I suppose our rivalry came out of that. We're both competitive, proud people, and the first few years I felt like I was doing as much as I possibly could to be good, while Jack was just naturally amazing. He's amazing at everything, and that just bore this frustration in me: "I'm trying so hard but I cannot get it. Meanwhile, he's killing it."

We competed for the spotlight socially, too. We love a prank and making people laugh, but even that's hard sometimes – to have two alphas who both think they're funny. Later on, I came into my own as a footballer and a leader, and Jack came under fire for his body language on the field, or things he said to the media. I never doubted that he wanted the best for the football club – the problem was his delivery.

It built to a point where Jack was left out of the leadership of the team. I didn't vote for him. He confronted me about it and said, "What's the problem – why don't you see me as a good leader?" And we had it out – we put everything out there. And I really got to understand him. After that it was no longer "I think Jack's doing this because he's selfish", or because he wants attention, or because he's bored. I could see all he wanted to do was help.

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When Jack's cousin Maddie died [from aplastic anaemia in 2015], I saw the human side of him, and I grew closer to him. When you see someone who you're competing with, you think they're bulletproof. But when you take off the armour and see their vulnerable side, it's no longer survival of the fittest.

We've become really close mates the past couple of years. Jack's a hard worker, creative, close with his family, and that's just so aligned with me. I saw that the person I was chafing against for so long was exactly the same as me. We won the flag in 2017, after accepting each other for who we are. It was like, "What was the point of all of those years of stupid competition?"

We've both injured our knees this year, and being in rehab together we can pre-empt what the other is feeling. I can see when he's flat, and he can see when I'm flat. A couple of days ago, we boycotted the club rehab session and just did our own swim, bike and strength session together. The morning went by in a blink.

We live near each other now in Brighton, and it's almost like a brotherly relationship. I borrow his lawnmower, he drops over his whipper snipper, I come to see his little daughter Poppy. We carpool all the time, and those are some of the best moments. You can solve all the problems of the world in a car trip.

JACK: My first memory of Alex was him walking into the gym at Tigerland, and how massive he was. He was this 18-year-old kid, and he could already bench-press more than anyone. He was funny, too. I remember him yelling at [Tigers legend] Matthew Richardson in his first session – to push through to the cones in sprints. He's colourful now but things were really black-and-white with Alex early on.

I was probably hard on him then – forwards versus backs. I liked him, but he wasn't a person I would have gravitated to if I wasn't at a football club. I think we were twins, butting heads, arguing in meetings, or in front of people. We had run-ins on the training track as well, a couple of wrestles – moments of conflict and tension that you walk away from later and think, "What the hell happened there?"

You can have a warped view of where you are, and until someone tells you otherwise – like Rancey did – you rarely change your behaviour.

I was really hurt when I got dropped out of the leadership group in 2014, but I was more hurt when I felt I'd done the work to get back in, and was left out again in 2016. Alex was really honest with me. Sometimes you can have a warped view of where you are, and unRead More – Source

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