MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 28: Alex Rance of the Tigers thanks fans during the 2018 AFL round 15 match between the Richmond Tigers and the Sydney Swans at Etihad Stadium on June 28, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Tigers assistant Justin Leppitsch has lifted the lid on a potential trade at the start of last decade that could’ve sent star defender Alex Rance to Hawthorn for a third-round pick.

After struggling to crack into Richmond’s best 22, Rance met with Alastair Clarkson in 2010-2011 in search of more senior opportunities.

Leppitsch was in his first stint at Richmond before re-joining the Brisbane Lions as their senior coach in 2014.

Speaking on The Herald Sun’s Sacked podcast, Leppistch recalled a phone call with Damien Hardwick where he advised they stood by Rance.

“Dimma rang me and spoke to me about it,” Leppitsch said.

“I just sort of said, and it might have been one of my first years and I hadn’t really done enough work with him yet, and I just said to Dimma, ‘He’s 6 foot 4 (194cm), he’s athletic, just give me some time with him, and lets get him out on the track’.

“I think my first year he had been a bit of back, a bit of forward and a bit of mid, we hadn’t really nailed him yet, it was more that second season when we are able to get our hands on him.

“He would have been a loss. I think it was a third rounder, somewhere in the 40s (for a trade) and I thought, ‘Gee, only for that’ … we had no salary cap debt back then. If it’s a pick in the 40s or Alex Rance, just give me Alex Rance’.”

And as they say – the rest is history, with Rance going on to be a five-time All Australian and premiership player for Richmond.

Leppitsch was unsure if we would ever see Rance on an AFL field again, but pondered a move to a rival club if he did come out of retirement.

“I don’t know, sometimes the further you move away from it, the harder it is to come back, that’s all I would say,” Leppitsch said.

“If he does, is it at Richmond or is it somewhere else?

“Is it a change of environment that will help him? I think now that this has happened with the virus, it has probably changed everyone’s perspective as well.”