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Two of Us: Rance & Jack - The Age

Total Tiger

Tiger Champion
Apr 13, 2009
Two of Us: 'When you take off the armour, it’s no longer survival of the fittest'

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.

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?"

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 until someone tells you otherwise – like Rancey did – you very rarely change your behaviours. It's one of his greatest traits, his honesty.

I love so many things about him. One is his devotion to his religion. [Rance is a Jehovah's Witness.] I have no affiliation in religion, but respect how much it means to him. I ask him about it a lot – I'm curious. I think his faith makes him a whole person, and grounds him.

He's probably the funniest person I've met. He soaped up the change-room floor once and made it into a slip-and-slide. Another time he built a raft out of office water-cooler drums, then went downstairs to the pool for a paddle, and had all the boys in fits of laughter. He constantly takes the **** out of himself.

Alex wrote a children's book about me, Rabbit's Hop, and it's one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for me. Honestly, he is a goofy genius. It takes someone really special to be able to look past that competitive cauldron into the mind of kids, and he has that trait in spades – this gay abundance of fun.

We're both injured now, but his attitude just doesn't let me have a down day. I'll look at him and remember that I'm a big chance of playing again this year, and he's not, so what right do I have to feel down? He's so positive. He makes you think past yourself.

We still challenge each other, too. Yesterday we were in the pool together and he's a really good swimmer, and I'm okay, and all I was trying to do was get in front of him. And I know that he knows that I'm trying to get in front of him. We don't say it, but it's a competition. Always.

Konrad Marshall is the author of Yellow and Black: A Season with Richmond.