How Wests Tigers recruit Jordan Rankin rebuilt a promising NRL career
March 16, 2016
Sports reporter & Video journalist
Eight years after making his NRL debut as a 16-year-old school student, Wests Tigers recruit Jordan Rankin detailed how the impact of the knocks of a man’s game can devastate a boy’s confidence.
Rankin became the NRL’s youngest-ever debutant when he was selected to play for the 2008 Gold Coast Titans aged 16 years and 238 days. While he survived his baptism against Newcastle the aftermath ultimately forced him to shift to the English Super League to rebuild his confidence at Hull FC.
The now 24-year-old is rightfully proud of his place in the game’s history but after needing to wait two years before he played in his second top-grade game Rankin believes his story justifies the decision by the code’s authorities to enforce a mandatory 18-year-old age limit for first grade.
“I’m not going to say I wasn’t thrown in too young but it was an opportunity I took … that I was given … it is one of those things I have to live with now,” he said. ."Sixteen is obviously, when you look at it now, a bit young.
“I was in grade 11 when I debuted but that’s part of my career and something I’m proud of. I’m not proud of how it turned out since then - not playing as many games as I would’ve liked to over the years - but that’s the way rugby league is, it’s not all clear sailing; you have your ups and downs and I’ve had my ups and downs.”
Back in the NRL: Jordan Rankin.
Back in the NRL: Jordan Rankin. Photo: Dan Talintyre
Rankin, who will return to the Gold Coast on Saturday to help Wests Tigers try to win their third game on the trot, explained the hardest part of being a schoolboy thrust into the limelight was living with the constant expectation to be special.
“You put expectations on yourself, other people put expectations on you, and you know what you’re capable of [but you’re] not living up to those expectations,” he said. “At some point I had to learn to deal with those things … with the media, with playing … and, not lowering my expectations, but being able to deal with the added pressure you get as an NRL player.”
Rankin said he found it hard to wrestle with what he must have done wrong in his debut match as he waited two long years for a second shot. During that time he lost an important part of his arsenal - his youthful confidence.
“I played one game and didn’t play for another two years and that dents your confidence because you wonder ‘I played one game, why can’t I play anymore’,” he said.
"You want to play more and when I got the opportunity to play again I thought because it took me so long to get back there I didn’t want to do anything to dampen my performance or my opportunity to play there.
"I didn’t play my natural game, I played a bit more conservative and didn’t give myself an opportunity to grow as a player.
"It’s all maturity stuff and the best thing I did was go overseas and play. People thought it was a rash move for me to go at 21 but it gave me the chance to play first grade consistently and develop myself as a player and a person.
“It gave me the opportunity to play for the Wests Tigers and I’m grateful for it.”