Rankin stakes claim for Moses’s vacant spot
Tony Webeck Sat 20 May, 2017, 7:49am
By Tony Webeck, Chief Queensland Correspondent, NRL.com
Wests Tigers utility Jordan Rankin has vowed to use the departure of Mitchell Moses to press his claims as a genuine NRL half and to help drag the club that resurrected his career out of their current doldrums.
The hamstring complaint to Luke Brooks opened the door for Rankin to make his first NRL appearance of the season on Friday night against the Broncos on what would ultimately be a tough night for the new-look halves combination of Rankin and Jack Littlejohn.
Scoring opportunities for the visitors were few and far between and on the occasions that they did cross Brisbane’s line the men with the whistles found cause to deny them time and again.
If the Tigers had had two more days to prepare Brooks would have been fit enough to take his place in the team but Rankin hopes his recall will provide the springboard to again become a regular member of the first grade side.
The 25-year-old played 22 games on the wing and at fullback last year after returning from a two-year stint in England but has spent the opening to the 2017 season playing in the halves for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership NSW side that is struggling near the foot of the ladder.
A Gold Coast schoolboy prodigy, Rankin has been enjoying his return to the playmaking positions this season and hopes that he can show coach Ivan Cleary enough over the next fortnight to warrant selection as Brooks’s halves partner for the Round 13 clash with the Dragons.
“It was unfortunate that Mitch left but obviously someone has got to fill that role now that he’s gone and I’ll do whatever I can to put myself in a position to keep putting my hand up to play in that position for the rest of the year and for however long Ivan and the coaching staff want me to,” Rankin told NRL.com.
"It’s just a matter of me putting in good performances not just on the field but on the training paddock as well, working on all the little things I need to work on. Hopefully it’s just one of many games this year that I play for the Tigers.
"I really enjoyed getting back at in the halves there tonight, it’s a position I feel really comfortable playing and unfortunately we just didn’t turn up tonight and play the way we wanted to.
"I’ve been playing in the halves pretty much the whole year and it’s a position I really enjoy playing and I feel a bit more at home there.
“With Ivan coming in he’s taken the reins with a lot of the stuff that the halves are doing and we’re just looking to keep improving every week and getting some wins on the board for the club.”
As they traded blows in the opening exchanges with the Broncos the absence of Brooks was noticeable as they struggled to build pressure and convert it into points, something that Brisbane had no trouble achieving when their turn came.
Littlejohn and Rankin were both guilty of putting in kicks that handed possession straight back to the Broncos but Rankin’s running game should serve as a good complement to the organisational style of Brooks in the short term.
In the wake of their heaviest defeat to the Broncos since Round 20, 2000 the Tigers are in desperate need of a fresh start under Cleary who has already begun piecing together next year’s squad with the signings of Josh Reynolds, Ben Matulino and Russell Packer.
“There’s been a lot of turmoil around the club, let’s be honest, and we’ve got some changes to make and change is coming but at the moment it’s just trying to manage how we’re getting through at the moment,” Cleary said.
"Obviously our club’s had a lot of uncertainty, a lot of things going on, a lot of speculation, a lot of scrutiny. There are a lot of others who are still unsure of where they fit in and their futures that type of thing and the last couple of weeks it is coming out in our performance.
“Everything’s not going quite right at the moment. It’s a bit of a test now for our resilience but the sun will come up tomorrow and we’ll move on from this.”