AFL star Jack Riewoldt has broken his silence on the shock retirement of his close friend and former Richmond Tigers teammate Alex Rance.
Rance's decision to call time on his career on December 19 before splitting with his wife Georgia a few days later sparked a string of ugly rumours online.
Social media speculation led Tenisha Crook, the partner of Tigers forward Jack Higgins, to unleash at 'putrid' rumours; while a thread on the AFL fan forum BigFooty discussing the issue was removed on Monday amid threats of legal action.
In an Instagram post almost two weeks after Rance's retirement, Riewoldt said he was glad his teammate was standing by his Jehovah's Witness faith.
Alex and Georgia Rance in happier times last year. She split with the Tiger champion just days after he announced his retirement
AFL star Jack Riewoldt (pictured) has broken his silence on the shock retirement of Richmond Tigers teammate Alex Rance
'2019 was certainly one of the busiest years in my life,' Riewoldt wrote.
'A new addition to our family, an injury riddled year that ultimately finished in success, but the most surprising has been the retirement of one of my best friends.'
Riewoldt said not having Rance around the club would be a 'void' both on and off the field.
'I'm not overly religious, so it's something that I don't completely understand on the level that you do. But if it's important to you, it's important to me.'
'I'm proud of you for staying true to yourself. We will miss you, Tigerland will miss you, I will miss you.
'Thank you for everything... brother! #champion.'
Jack and Carly Riewoldt with their baby Poppy. Riewoldt had previously publicly supported Alex Rance saying their were 'like brothers'
Daniel Rioli (right) has become the first AFL star to share a tribute to departing Tigers star Alex Rance (centre)
Another former teammate Daniel Rioli paid tribute to Alex Rance on Tuesday, just as questions were being raised about how quiet the Tiger players had been about his exit.
While captain Trent Cotchin made a statement on the day of Rance's retirement, most of the Tigers stayed conspicuously tight-lipped considering one of their most highly acclaimed teammates had just retired.
Former St Kilda coach and media commentator Grant Thomas drew attention to the situation when he tweeted: 'Curious … where is the heartfelt outpouring of support and accolades from Tiger teammates since Rance retired?'
Rioli went some way to addressing it by making an online tribute to Rance - whose No.18 locker was next to Rioli's No.17 in the club's Punt Road training centre.
'Just wanted to congratulate this guy on an incredible career,' he wrote on Instagram.
Rance - a five-time All-Australian - suddenly called time on his career on December 19 before it was revealed he had split from his wife Georgia (pictured together)
December 19 - Alex Rance announces his shock retirement at the height of his career
He did not attend a press conference held by the Tiger's CEO Brendon Gale
December 27 - Rance's split from his wife Georgia is revealed
December 29 - Ex-St Kilda coach Grant Thomas questions why Rance's teammates have not paid tribute to him
Tenisha Crook, the partner of Tigers midfielder Jack Higgins, unleashes on 'putrid' allegations made about her online
December 30 - Daniel Rioli becomes first of Alex Rance's teammates to break his silence on the AFL superstar's decision to quit the sport - thanking him for 'being such a food teammate and leader for us'
'Thank you for being such a good teammate and leader for us. Gonna miss you as my locker buddy love ya bro.'
The emotional post came after Tigers captain Trent Cotchin said the team would 'always be there' for their departing co-captain.
Just two days before Rance's announcement, teammate Dylan Grimes told afl.com.au the star defender was in great shape.
'He's been building now for 12 months for the season to start, so I think he's going to be in terrific condition. Seeing him move around the track, he's moving better than he was before the knee, it