Hardwick’s scathing response to backlash

Damien Hardwick has backed stars defender Alex Rance.
Damien Hardwick has backed stars defender Alex Rance.

RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick has come to the defence of his All-Australian defender Alex Rance after he came under fire for staging.

Rance was awarded a free kick after feeling minimal contact from Essendon's Shaun McKernan and flailing his body forward.

The exaggerated motion was widely condemned and earned Rance a $1000 fine from Match Review Offier Michael Christian.

Former players Kane Cornes and Wayne Carey slammed the blatant dive from Rance on Sunday.

"The worst free kick of the year. How an umpire can be sucked in by a blatant attempt from Rance, who let's face and be honest a great player but he has a history with staging," Cornes said.

Carey was more scathing in his assessment as he stated the move would ""put a stain on his career" and that "he's got to cut that crap out."

The incident became a key talking point out of the weekend and joined Sydney's Callum Sinclair who also copped a $1000 fine for staging.

The decision to fine Rance won support from some key industry figures.

"I don't like it, we don't like it, and I think it's good the AFL are stamping it out," St Kilda coach Alan Richardson said of staging.

Geelong coach Chris Scott believes Rance would be a little embarrassed watching vision of his theatrical flop.

"I think it's quite funny watching Alex Rance do that ... but I don't think players like it either," Scott said.

"If he's not the best player in the game he's really close to it and I suspect he'd look at that and go 'I'm not going to do that any more'."

Alex Rance was awarded a free kick, but later fined for staging.
Alex Rance was awarded a free kick, but later fined for staging.

Scott praised Christian and AFL football chief Steve Hocking for clamping down on the practice.

Rance was tight-lipped about the incident when approached by reporters at Punt Road on Monday.

Hardwick however wasn't holding back when the subject was brought up.

"We're always trying to bring a champion down and that's what I thought this was," Hardwick said.

"I was really disappointed in the commentary. He's a champion of the game and I don't think we need to be saying it's a stain on his career.

"I found that really disappointing, and I think there will be a lot of people embarrassed by the commentary if we go back and look at their career."

While the Tigers star is seen by some to have form in the area, Christian said he made the decision to slap him with a $1000 fine based purely on Saturday's incident.

"If you excessively exaggerate in an unsportsmanlike manner that may affect an umpire's decision then it's deemed as staging," Christian said.

"In this particular case, there was only minimal contact by McKernan and Alex excessively exaggerated that contact.

"He was paid a free kick and I believe it fit into the provisions of staging."