Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew has dismissed criticism of small forward Izak Rankine, insisting the 22-year-old’s best AFL years are very much ahead of him.
Rankine claimed 16 disposals in the Suns’ 52-point Queensland derby loss to Brisbane at Metricon Stadium on Sunday, failing to score a goal and spending a part of the match in midfield to escape the attentions of Lions defender Brandon Starcevich.
Dropped in round 20 last year, Rankine has played three straight matches after missing rounds two and three with a quad issue.
After a quiet seven-disposal performance against St Kilda last weekend, Dew said he’s more than comfortable with how Rankine’s career is progressing.
“I thought he bounced back. He knew last week was poor and he got busy tonight,” Dew said.
“I said during the week, he’s played 34 games, he averages 11 touches and a goal a game and there’s a guy at the other end, number 23 for Brisbane (Charlie Cameron), that averages 11 touches and averages a goal and a half, whose played 156 games.
“We understand he’s under the microscope but at the same point in his career he’s very similar to a lot of these guys.
“I just want to, not protect Izak, but stick up for him.
“He’s on the path. He’s working so hard.
“He’s not the player that people say. He’s not selfish. He’s the ultimate team-man and he’s working hard at his craft.
“When we get better, he’ll get better. He’ll help us get better. They’ll work together. He’ll be fine but his workrate was really good tonight.”