In bombshell AFL off-season news, gun Richmond Tigers player and almost inarguably the game’s best defender Alex Rance has announced his immediate retirement from footy, citing a desire to focus more time and attention on his family and his religion.

Rance missed out on Richmond’s Grand Final win in September after ripping the bejeezus out of his ACL in round one. But today’s announcement appears to have nothing to do with injury.

Richmond officials confirmed the 30-year-old would be walking away from the game effective immediately a short time ago.

In a statement issued via the club, Rance said that he feels now is “the right time for me to put the same time and energy into other areas of my life that need it, and to prioritise the more important things to me, such as my spiritual growth, my family and friends.”

Rance, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, reportedly almost walked away from the game following the Tigers’ breakthrough 2017 Premiership for similar reasons, but ultimately returned to the game in 2018, before his 2019 season was curtailed by injury.

Rance is considered comfortably the game’s premiere defender, and his 200-game career has returned a staggering five All-Australian selections, including the captaincy of the side in Richmond’s 2017 flag year.

The beloved Richmond favourite reportedly told teammates of his decision to walk away from the game earlier this morning. Tigers CEO Brendon Gale stated that Rance will “always be part of Richmond and we wish him and his family all the best for the future.”

It’s a huge day for footy, mates. Huge day.

Image: Getty Images / Quinn Rooney