Young Dons immerse themselves in AFL de Rance knowledge

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All-rounder Essendon teenager Nik Cox hopes his first full AFL preseason sets him on track to eventually take on a key position as he learns the ropes from former star fullback Alex Rance .

The Richmond Premier League hero joined the Bombers in a part-time development coach role and was on hand to oversee training as the club’s first-to-fourth-year players returned to work at Tullamarine on Wednesday .

Rance, who retired at the end of 2019 after 200 games with the Tigers, made an appearance as a replacement with the Essendon VFL team last season but quickly ended discussions on a return of the AFL.

The 32-year-old will be a valuable sounding board for the youth of the Bombers, including 2021 Rising All-Star nominees Cox, Harrison Jones and Archie Perkins.

“He’s awesome, it was awesome to meet him today,” Cox said after the preseason training session.

“He was an incredible player during his career and it’s great to have him on the track.

“He’s a great voice and so experienced.

“He has a lot of knowledge that is going to be passed on to us young players and he is going to work closely with us, so that’s a great thing for us.”

A first-round pick in the 2020 draft, Cox made 20 appearances on the field in his first season, but ended up as an unused substitute in the Bombers’ last two games, including the final elimination loss to the Western Bulldogs.

The 19-year-old, who missed what would have been his last season of junior football due to COVID-19 closures, said he felt tired near the end of a long campaign.

He hoped his first full preseason would better prepare him for the rigors of senior football.

“He’s one of my great drivers; I don’t want to fall like I did (last season),” Cox said.

“I felt like I was a little tired towards the end of the year and it didn’t help that I didn’t have football the year before.

“That’s the good thing about having the full preseason, I’m able to go and build my body to play a full season.

“It’s not just my strength, but my running and my competition work as well.”

Cox was tested in various positions last year – his frame of nearly 200cm and mobility proving to be valuable assets – with the Bombers yet to decide to use him in a more specific role in 2022.

“(Versatility) is obviously one of my strengths and I want to keep that ability to be swayed in midfield, back and forward,” Cox said.

“I’m sure I’ll be floating through a number of roles over the pre-season and hopefully I can settle into a key position further down the track, but we’ll have to see.”


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