Izak Rankine in action during round five, 2024. Picture: AFL Media

HE IS Adelaide's firestarter and he produced a match-winning performance last week against Carlton. But there's plenty more to Crows star Izak Rankine.

Rankine chats with Cal Twomey in this week's Cal's Q&A about his midfield time and overcoming the Crows' fast start, delves into his decision to leave Gold Coast and return to Adelaide in a blockbuster trade at the end of 2022, dreaming big and the lofty goals he's set himself, playing 'freestyle', handling pressure and the scariest moment of his life.

Two points can be everything in footy. How satisfying was it to get on the winners list last week against Carlton?

It was a big relief. We'd been searching for that first win of the season. It had been a disappointing start but we all didn't lose faith. We all believed we could win that game and it turned out well so it was great to finally have the win on the board and we're looking forward to playing Essendon.

It was your best game of the season with 23 disposals, three goals and more midfield time. Did you enjoy being in the middle?

Definitely. I feel comfortable in the middle – I played a lot of midfield growing up so I don't mind going in there and then pushing forward and creating a bit of confusion. We have the players who can wax on and wax off with each other with 'Daws' (Jordan Dawson), 'Lairdy' (Rory Laird) and 'Rash' (Josh Rachele) and plenty of options who can do it in there.


How do you plan to split up your games from here in terms of midfield v forward?

It's just going to be week to week and depending on whoever we're playing and whatever 'Nicksy' (coach Matthew Nicks) feels. He still has to put me in positions that he thinks will help us win. I'm always pushing to play more midfield time and creating spark and we had probably lacked a bit of getting the ball forward and driving our legs out of the contest. It's good to see it all work out on the weekend and I'm keen to do it again this week.

When you were coming through the draft I always thought that Jason Akermanis was the player I recognised in how you played. Who of the current players do you feel has that forward/midfield balance you're looking for?

Shai Bolton is one, Kozzy Pickett has been doing it a bit. Dustin Martin still sticks out as that type of player – he's in the midfield and able to push forward and have dominance on the game and create things out of nothing. I feel I can do that for the team and really get us in there and win the ball and create a bit of spark. That's what we're looking for in the midfield group so they're the players I look at.

Shai Bolton is tackled by Izak Rankine during round two, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

It's your second year at the Crows. How has it compared to the first?

I definitely felt comfortable coming in with all the players and staff and fans. I'm from Adelaide so the fans were probably looking at me before when I was at Gold Coast so they might've felt a connection with me before but last year was an easy transition. Playing more games together this year has been good, the group is great and I feel I'm a good fit for the club and I'm excited for the future.

You spent four years at Gold Coast after being the No.3 pick in 2018. Did you always think you'd return to South Australia at some stage?

It was always tempting to come home but I didn't really expect it to happen that fast. I was very lucky to go high in the draft and head up to Gold Coast and I was really happy going there. It just eventuated that I came back sooner rather than later, but home's home. It would have been nice to always play for the Crows but it happened that way.

Izak Rankine celebrates a goal for Gold Coast against Sydney in round eight, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

You've spoken about how playing at Adelaide Oval late in your last season for Gold Coast flicked a switch for you to head back to Adelaide. How crucial was that?

It definitely helped. I don't think I made a decision that night but it helped to realise the support I had at home. Coming from a big family I was missing out on a bit and a lot of family stuff, birthdays and the kids growing up. I have a really good connection with my family so I love having the little kids running around and being at home. I grew up that way and I really enjoy a bit of chaos in the house. I struggled a little bit being away from that for those few years. Seeing everyone in the changerooms after the game when we played Port Adelaide ignited that feeling to want to come home.

Who was the hardest person to tell at the Suns you were requesting a trade?

It was probably Stuey (Dew). And the leaders as well like Sam Collins, Jarrod Witts and Touk Miller. I had a good connection and relationship with Stuey and we spoke about where we wanted to go as a club with 'Luko' (former teammate and schoolmate Jack Lukosius) and we really wanted to keep the group together but things don't always turn out how you want them. I'm happy to be home.

Stuart Dew speaks to Gold Coast players during round 12, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

Did you ever consider Port Adelaide?

Did I consider Port? I don't think I've been asked that. I definitely had a soft spot for the Crows growing up and going for them so I probably looked more to the Crows. I'm really happy to be here.

How have you found the pressure on you compared to those at the Suns? How do you navigate that?

I think I handle it pretty well to be fair. It was a blessing in disguise to go to Gold Coast first, grow up a bit, mature a bit and understand what's important in life and find myself outside of footy. I did that and then came back home and felt comfortable with who I am. The city is a fishbowl here and that's all part of it but I embrace it – I love the expectation, I like that when you don't have a great game you're expected to play well the next week.

Izak Rankine high-fives fans after an Adelaide win during round five, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos/Getty Images

You missed your whole first year with hamstring injuries. What affect did that have on you? 

The hamstrings were a bit annoying. Coming into the AFL I didn't really have too many injuries and didn't miss too many games so when I did get injured it was a bit of a shock. I hadn't gone through a rehab process before. It was pretty lonely. You're by yourself outside of the group a lot and trying to get yourself right. I played one game and then got injured again and then did a few months of rehab again and then hurt it again. You start getting in your own head and I was seriously thinking 'Is this for me?' But I stuck it out and Gold Coast really supported me and I had the right people there and when I got back I played some good footy. It definitely was a journey. Footy had come easy to me growing up and I didn't really think about getting injured.

In your draft year we did an interview where you said you'd always looked up to the greatest and wanted to be one of the best ever. How do you reflect on your ambitions?

I think that feeling is still there – I still want to be the greatest. Whether that's the greatest in the AFL or the greatest Crow, I want to get to a level that I know I can. I wouldn't ask for something I didn't think I could do. I feel I have the attributes and the ability to be able to get there. Early on as a young kid you come into the system it's a bit of a shock with how hard you have to work and everyone else around you is good as well. You have to put in the extra hard yards and being injured set me back a little bit. The last three years I've really started to break stride and understand what it takes. I've seen a few people in the industry who I really look up to and who are really good role models so I've taken bits from them and tried to add it to me. You need to have ambition.

You've also spoken about how Indigenous players sometimes can get labelled as 'flight risks'. The AFL has been open in its hope to get more Indigenous players into the game. How important is that?

I definitely think subconsciously if you're from another state then some teams can see Indigenous kids as sometimes a bit of a risky situation but I feel as though giving them the opportunity and putting them in places where they can grow and learn is really important to these kids. They need to have role models and they need to see people doing it for them to believe in themselves.

Adelaide's jumper for Sir Doug Nicholls Round this year is designed by you. What does it mean to you?

It was a bit of a process. They asked me to do it and I had my cousin in mind to do it with. It was an easy conversation and he actually does other guernseys here in Adelaide so I gave him a story for what I wanted it to be – going up to Gold Coast and then going home – and he put it all together and made it look really cool. It was easy but fun process and we had a few to choose from but I'm glad we came out with that one.

Izak Rankine is seen in the Sir Doug Nicholls round guernsey he helped design. Picture: Supplied

You've clearly got a creative mind. Can you share the meaning behind some of your favourite tattoos?

I have one on my hand that says 'Family' – family is really important to me. On my forearm there's an astronaut going up to space and there's a church in there and the church is sort of where I'm from and then the sky is black. There's a sun in the middle so that's sort of the Aboriginal flag with the black, yellow and red dirt. The astronaut can be anyone – it's a bit about the circle of life and reaching for the stars. 'Dream big' is what I was going for. I've got some on my thighs that say 'Black Swan' and that's for my dad where he's from, and there's a few random ones as well in a few different places. Most of them having meaning to them and I like expressing myself and I've always been that sort of kid. I'd love to get some more tattoos. They're off-season jobs, though.

Go back to your footy. When you are on, there's nobody better to watch. How do you try to capture that moment?

I've tried to explain that and tried to think about how I can continue to get in those spaces and be there for longer. It's a spiritual thing for me. When you're in those moments you're not thinking about anything, it's just flowing. I'm literally freestyling when I'm playing my best footy. That's when I'm in the moment, not thinking and not doubting myself. The more trust people put into me and give me a bit more room to play and freestyle it, snapping, taking players on, running around and just playing the sport for the sport. Obviously it's more serious and you have to play to the structures so I try to keep the coaches happy and then also play my game a bit. That seems to help us win a bit more.

Is that balance tough?

It's definitely a balance I had to find when I first came into the system as I've been playing my role more. I try and balance it out a bit more but my best footy is definitely when I'm in a flow state.

You've been known for your musical streak but took it to another level in Gather Round when you performed a song live on The Footy Show. How daunting was that?

That was probably the most nervous thing I've ever done. I haven't felt like that ever. Debuting and then getting on stage – there was a massive gap in terms of how nervous I was for both. I was seriously doubting myself. I was in the car driving to the entertainment centre and I was thinking 'Do I really do this?' I tried to call my manager and get out of it but it was too late and we'd already committed so I did it. It was definitely the scariest thing I've done but I'm glad I did it. It was a good response and the people loved it and it shows another side of athletes in the AFL. We're not just footballers, we have other interests and hobbies. We have families, some of us have kids, so footy's not everything at the end of the day. It is a big part of us for the moment but we're definitely doing other things off-field.

You'll be hoping to sing the Adelaide song on Friday night. How do you take in the momentum from last week?

It was disappointing to start 0-4 but you can't change the past. We were happy with the win on the weekend and we're trying to create some momentum for ourselves and hopefully push for finals. We still have that goal to play finals and we still all believe in it. We definitely have the side and the players for it.