MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Alex Rance of the Tigers and Damien Hardwick, coach of the Tigers wave to the crowd during the 2017 AFL Grand Final Parade ahead of the Grand Final between the Adelaide Crows and the Richmond Tigers, on September 29, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Richmond premiership defender Alex Rance has confirmed he was “very, very close” to quitting football in 2015 to turn all of his attention to his faith and family.

Rance is a devout Jehovah’s Witness and was keen to pursue a life of spreading God’s word, although in a recent interview with 20FOUR, Rance said he just couldn’t walk away from a game he loved that much.

“People need to make that decision for themselves so I found that quite conflicting — I wanted to talk to people about deeper issues but I didn’t want to have so much sway that they’d just do it because I’m Alex Rance the footballer. That weighed on my mind a lot from the spiritual perspective,” Rance said.

“When I want to talk to people about love and care, and they are definitely things that are central parts of being Jehovah’s Witness, that’s conflicting because I’m beating a guy up … but then when I talk about the leadership side of things I definitely feel that I show that empathy, care, humility to try to make others better.

“It’s definitely not an easy road to walk.”

The 28-year-old also spoke about his relationship with Damian Hardwick, suggesting they weren’t too close in his first two seasons at the club.

Rance believed Hardwick was trying to understand Rance’s personality and his commitment to the game, meaning it took the pair some time before growing closer.

“We are very different personalities,” Rance said about Hardwick.

“I think early days it would have been hard for Dimma to wrap his head around what I was about — am I just taking the piss or am I actually going to be a decent player for this club? Am I going to distract people?

“I was very outspoken about how I thought the game was, and I still don’t necessarily play the game by the game plan a lot of the time. It works out a lot of the time, sometimes it doesn’t.

“Our relationship had to grow from there. We do have a lot in common but it wasn’t as if we were super tight, having dinners every second week.”

Rance then said he grew into his own as a player when Justin Leppitsch arrived at the end of 2009, as the former Lions premiership player took Rance under his wing and turned him into a key-position player.

“In my first few years I was a tagger, a forward, a wingman, they started me as a running half-back but I couldn’t kick and hit a target, so then it was like, ‘What do we do with you?’,” Rance recalled.

“It wasn’t until Leppa came along, who is probably more of that father figure or older brother, who said, ‘You’ve got all these attributes, let’s funnel them into making you a really good key-position player’. That was the moment that sparked my career.”

During the interview, Rance was also asked about Richmond’s chances of going back-to-back, and the four-time All-Australian believes his side can do it.

Rance also suggested he would celebrate differently if they won another flag, taking inspiration from a Hawthorn defender.

“I’d celebrate a different way (if Richmond wins another Grand Final). I don’t think I’d be running around like a headless chook again, I think I’d try to take more in.

“When Hawthorn won one of theirs I saw Ben Stratton running around with a GoPro on his head and I thought, ‘You look like a flog’ … and now I think that is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen because forever he’ll have that and can just play it over and over.

“If we ever get the chance again, I’ll be getting a GoPro in my backpack for sure.”