For all the hoopla about Isaac Rankin as a teenage top-line AFL prospect, he’s been somewhat off-Broadway since his Gold Coast footballer days.
That came to an abrupt halt earlier this month, when it became clear the 22-year-old wanted to return home to South Australia to play for the Crows.
Rankin made the trade announcement to Adelaide on Tuesday.
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There was a mixed reaction to the news, with clear disappointment and anger at Sun when it came to outgoing chairman Tony Cochrane.
Both Cochrane and captain Tuck Miller cited how much work Gold Coast had done to help Rankin overcome his early injury problems.
Beyond the striker’s stellar season in 2022, including 29 goals and a personal-best 10th in the Suns’ club championship tally, there’s a sense of frustration that they can’t see the fruits of that labor.
But that disappointment was matched by joy at other sides, the Rankin family, the Crows and West Adelaide he led as a youngster.
There is also some panic.
Rankin had what could only be described as a challenging upbringing, including the separation of his parents, Ronald and Kerry.
His relationship with his father is complicated and there were times when he lived at home before he was ready or with his older brother Matt, one of six siblings.
Rankin took on more responsibility and did his best to ensure there was structure in his life at both West Adelaide and Henley High School, particularly Ben Kane, who ran the school’s football academy.
Rankin’s West Adelaide League coach, Gavin Colville, told News Corp: “I’m delighted to be drafted from South Australia.
“I felt that coming out of the Adelaide fishbowl would definitely benefit him, so I think that’s a good thing.
“Everybody I’ve had contact with Izaak tells me he’s had a strong support on the Gold Coast and it’s been a great experience for him… I hope he makes it, because he’s a great kid.”
AFL recruiters who spoke to News Corp on condition of anonymity echoed the sentiment that Colville’s move is for Interstate’s good.
Rankine conducted some pre-draft interviews with his father and others himself. In the singles he also talked about how moving out of Adelaide was good for him.
A talent scout released an interview with Rankine, believing the father would find it hard to let go of his son.
Former Suns football boss John Hynes was heavily involved in Rankine’s first three seasons in the AFL system before leaving the club at the end of last year.
After he became a Gold Coast player, they did their due diligence and then invested more.
Rival recruiters knew there was a risk of going home with Rankine, but the Suns’ collection of picks in the 2018 draft — Nos. 2, 3 and 7 — believed he was absolutely worth it on talent alone.
“Once we pick him, we want to understand as much as we can,” Hines said.
“As with anything, understanding someone’s journey and situation makes it easier to help, both individually and as a club – and that was our focus.
“It took a lot of time and energy, but it was well-received and educational on both sides.
We learned as much about ourselves and what to do to support our players as we did about Isaac.
Gold Coast’s whole approach with Rankin has been to surround him with positivity, and Hynes has seen “huge” personal growth in him.
Rankin has spoken to the Sun several times about wanting to use his profile as an AFL footballer to make a difference in the Indigenous community.
Former Crow Jason Porplizia, formerly West Adelaide’s talent manager, still fondly remembers an under-16 game in which Rankin kicked all six of the team’s goals and was almost behind.
Colville’s memory is of a passage in Rankine’s draft year, when he made a fool of Jasper Pittard, a 159-game AFL defender who was playing in the Port Adelaide reserves that day.
Rankin dropped it to Sherri and left Pittard in the dust before hitting goal, although the defender was in good form and couldn’t get it out of bounds.
“It was amazing to see someone of Pittard’s quality being taken to school by Isaac – it was too quick for him,” Colville said.
“Izak has the ability to run with the ball, basically as well as he does without it. It’s just ridiculous… then nobody else scored.
Next up was a Rankin Championship-winning performance against Victoria Metro for South Australia’s under-18 team.
The whiz-kid had three of his five goals before midway through the first quarter, including a fine aerial finish, to help the Tony Bamford-coached South Australians dismiss the Victorians.
“He’s definitely one of the box. “You don’t get many players who are so talented in different sports — he was a great basketball player, too,” Bamford said.
“We didn’t have to do anything in terms of getting the skills, because he was already more than half the talent playing in the AFL.
“It was just a matter of making sure he played a role in the team room, which did well for us.”
Hynes, Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew and co. From training to matches, they would nod to Rankine’s natural gifts.
Teammates young and old always flock to Rankine, who Porplizia describes as “happy-go-lucky” and a little cheeky.
“I think he’s in your imagination,” said Porplizia, who played 130 games for the Crows from 2006-14.
“He really did as a kid. He loved playing in big games and big moments – he thrives on that kind of thing.
There’s a bit of a swagger about it.
While there are few concerns about Rankin’s expectations as an Adelaide footballer and how he will handle the attention, off-field issues don’t seem to bother him when playing.
Colville was impressed with his ability to “turn it off” from the football, a quality he believed would stand him in good stead throughout his AFL career.
Haynes was also impressed by Rankine’s adaptability and infectious personality.
“He was shy[when he first arrived]but his energy and gentleness in some ways counteracted his shyness,” Hynes said.
“It didn’t take long for him to adjust to the environment and build relationships with the people and the staff, especially. He quickly adapted to the environment.
in the future
Rankine has yet to publicly address the trade question, but much of the attention elsewhere has focused on his salary.
Cochrane used the phrase “money talks” in Rankine’s parting clip.
Some media outlets believe he will receive somewhere in the high $800,000s per season, while others believe it is closer to $700,000.
Gold Coast’s long-term supply was believed to be worth around $650,000 a year. Regardless of the ending, Rankin will be handsomely rewarded.
There have been glimpses of the player he could become this year, but Bamford and Porplizia both hope the Crows will use him more in midfield.
They believe he can turn into a Shai Bolton or Conor Rosey-type player who starts forward but has an impact in midfield.
“I even told Gold Coast two years ago,” Bamford said.
“If you ask much of Isaac; You have to sniff around the ball.
“Don’t leave it just a little bit ahead, because it’s like letting a Porsche go 60km/h on the main road. Take him on the highway and let him go.
What is less known is how this situation will play out on the field.
The hope is that Adelaide is fully prepared for the complexities that can and do arise. But Rankine’s reunion with family and friends is seen as a positive.
Regardless, the general consensus is that the 22-year-old version of Rankine will be much better equipped to handle any challenges that may come his way.
“There’s no doubt about that,” Haynes said.
He spent four years in the system, was in a very good program and understood the AFL industry.
“With the kind of buzz around the business, he’s prepared as much as he can to bring back that footy-crazy city and the prospect that’s coming.
“He’ll be ready for it and hopefully, he can handle it really well.”
Fox Footy’s David King spoke about his concerns about Rankin’s move home this week, believing the trade request was “ill-advised”.
“I still can’t get my head around this,” King said of Sean.
“I think this is one of the most underrated players I’ve seen in a while.
“At 22 years old, he’s just getting going, he’s just hitting the straps, he’s played, what, 50 games of AFL footy – he’s not an $800,000 player.
“I understand you get what you pay for, and the Adelaide Crows have done a good job of saving their man and you have to pay more, I get all that, but I’m concerned about the pressure on him now.
“Because he is a small forward player, he will grow by winning his own ball in the future 50, he is not an attractive midfielder, so he will not be able to get a number that will satisfy the fans.
“I think he would be under pressure in a heartbeat for the Adelaide Crows.”