When you think of small forwards of the modern era, the names Cyril Rioli, Eddie Betts and Stephen Milne come to mind.
On Saturday night, the Gold Coast Suns unearthed the man who will be front of mine when we look back in 15 years.
Just 20 months after being drafted with pick three by the Suns, Rankine didn’t disappoint. Kicking three goals in a solo forward effort that resulted in a 17-point loss to Melbourne at Giants Stadium.
Rankine’s first two majors were a sight to behold – electrifying to say the least.
The first coming after selling the candy to a Melbourne defender before quickly turning and snapping on his right boot from 35-metres out. The second came from a repeat effort inside forward 50 which culminated in a jaw dropping 30-metre football goal.
Anthony Hudson called it beautifully, referring to Rankine’s first two goals as “the best first two goals ever”.
Rankine’s lightning speed came to the forefront when needed most, as in the final quarter he roved a Max Gawn hit out inside the Suns’ forward 50 to boot his third major of the night.
Rankine accompanied his game-high three goals with a game-high eight score involvements, 14 pressure acts and 111 ranking points.
It is not only Rankine’s ability to hit the scoreboard that makes him such a sight to behold. Instead it’s his ability to make the impossible possible, a trait possessed by only the best players in the game’s history.
“There’s shades of Wanganeen, there’s a bit of Goodes in there, there’s a bit of Burgoyne I reckon,” Kane Cornes stated on AFL media’s The Round So Far.
Cornes is not the only one to see something special in Rankine. South Australian Under 18 Championships coach, Tony Bamford, referred to Rankine as “the most talented athlete and footballer I’ve seen in my time”.
FOX Footy’s Jonathan Brown said Rankine’s first game was “as exciting a debut as I’ve ever seen”.
Rankine’s impressive debut will undoubtably earn him the Round 6 Rising Star nomination later this week, putting him right at the pointy end of candidates likely to take out the award come the end of the year. Rankine’s nomination will see him join teammates Matt Rowell and Connor Budarick as the Suns’ award nominees this season.
Given Matt Rowell’s shoulder injury that his set to sideline the number one pick for the remainder of the season, a role through the midfield may be in line for Rankine. Rankine’s ability to rotate through the middle of the ground was in full effect at the U18’s championship, where he claimed All Australian honours.
If Rankine can add this string to his bow at senior level, it will give Suns fans all the more reason to be excited about what he’ll bring to the club over the next decade.
With an up-and-coming Gold Coast team that has performed better than expected this season by his side, it wouldn’t be unimaginable to suggest that Rankine may find himself a poster boy for the most exciting football team in the competition within five years.