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  1. Alex Rance has begun to confide thoughts of retirement to teammates. Photo: Getty Images Jehovah's Witnesses do play professional sport, but body contact and ruthless competitiveness are questionable, according to a senior elder. Alex Rance's devotion to the Jehovah's Witness faith has been cited as a reason – though not the only one – why the Richmond defender is considering his football future at the age of just 25. The Age on Wednesday reported that while he is considered unlikely to walk away from the game, he was feeling drawn to a different life. There was no indication he wanted to take up religious service full-time. Graeme Martin, a senior elder at Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters in Australia, said it was up to the individual to consider how their sport fitted in with what they read in the bible. He said the organisation was not against all competition, but it discouraged competition that stirred up negative feelings such as vanity, greed and violence. "The competitiveness, win-at-all-costs no matter what the consequence for other players is questionable, but we don't dictate what a person chooses to do," Martin said. There was no clear line on whether a sport was too violent or competitive, he said, so it was impossible to say whether AFL was acceptable. "We're not going to make these arbitrary rules," Martin said. "[When] adults are making career choices, it's really up to them." There are examples of practising Jehovah's Witnesses making a huge impression in the world of sport. Tennis champions Serena and Venus Williams were raised Jehovah's Witnesses and remain active in the faith – their mother Oracene converted in 1984, just as her daughters began to play. The pair had even been spreading the word since they became famous, according to sister Isha, in a New York Times story in 2012. In Billy Bragg's God's Footballer, the folk singer told the true story of promising British soccer player Peter Knowles, who in 1969 gave away the game to devote his time to his Jehovah's Witness faith. Martin said the priorities of promising Jehovah's Witness sportspeople sometimes changed as their faith deepened, and that prompted them to take a different path. Many adherents to the faith, particularly single people or couples without children, devoted themselves to missionary service full-time, then pursued part-time paid work to make ends meet. "A lot are fully leading towards a sporting or professional career, then they study the bible and it changes their viewpoint on what the future holds," he said. The type of person who had been previously fully committed to one thing – the sport of their choice – was unlikely to then pursue religious service in a piecemeal way. A number of Australians have stepped back from professional sport in recent years in favour of religious service. Will Hopoate took two years out from his promising rugby league career to complete a mission for the Mormon faith, returning to join the Parramatta Eels last year. Fellow NRL player Lagi Setu spent his two-year Mormon mission in England, and now plays for the Sydney Roosters. Richmond half-back Bachar Houli, a practising Muslim, makes some small adjustments to make sure he can fulfil his religious duties. He alters his work-out program slightly during Ramadan, training with the team for the main session then squeezing the extra sessions into a shorter timeframe, forgoing a break. Houli says his form sometimes improved during the holy month. Alex Rance Alex Rance Wikipedia As Australian Rules star defender Alex Rance ponders his sporting future, David Saunders looks at why some elite athletes walk away from professional sport in their prime. Worilds gives up football for faith Jason Worilds Wikipedia

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