Main content

Indigenous players cop 'homesick' label, says Rankine

Izak Rankine in action during the JLT Community Series - AFL,Gold Coast Suns,Izak Rankine
Izak Rankine in action during the JLT Community Series

IZAK Rankine believes being indigenous led to suggestions he would be a 'flight risk' if taken by an interstate club at last year's NAB AFL Draft.

The South Australian landed at Gold Coast with pick No.3 after a strong season at SANFL level and as the only back-to-back All Australian at under-18 level.

Some questioned how Rankine would cope with a move interstate, and the 19-year-old thinks those queries were based on stereotypes.

NINE THINGS WE LEARNED  Dons face another wasted season

"I was a bit annoyed. Coming from an indigenous background you do get a label [put] on you that you'll be homesick. 100 per cent there's a bit of that," Rankine told AFL.com.au.

"Coming from an indigenous background there can be a label on you that you want to stay home with your mob and with your family. But for me personally, my family told me to go and do whatever.

If I ended up at Gold Coast, or Melbourne or in Western Australia, that was all right, I just want to pursue my dream and put the name out there.

A hamstring injury in the pre-season JLT Community Series, and then a setback last week, means Rankine won't make his senior debut until the second half of the season. However, despite that he says he has settled into the Suns seamlessly.

"I haven't been homesick so far and I don't think I will be. I love it up here so much. I miss my family, but I'd rather they move up here than me go back if anything," he said.

"It's a bit better up here, it's more laid back, you don't get hassled and it's a good place for football to thrive and become really big on the coast. I'm happy to help do that and get around to communities."

Find Road to the Draft on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.

The Suns are encouraging of Rankine exploring his indigenous culture.

Gold Coast works closely with its indigenous community, with local elder Luther Cora engaged to educate the Suns players and staff. Cora has been involved with the Suns since their inception.

He regularly visits the club with cultural advice and is viewed as a mentor for its indigenous players as the Suns look to bolster their education programs. 

"They're really good in trying to embrace their culture and I'm here to teach them about that," Cora said.

FANTASY FORM WATCH  Pig, rage trades and your questions

"We're working on building a process for new indigenous players who come here to introduce them to the community and make a place they can call home."

Rankine has already discussed ideas with Cora and the club's indigenous group to find more space at its facilities for traditional dot paintings, boomerangs and to do trips to indigenous communities as a group.

Jarrod Harbrow, an original Sun after crossing from the Western Bulldogs at the end of 2010, has become close to Cora since arriving at Gold Coast.

MID-SEASON ROOKIE DRAFT Former players, brothers of star on the list

"It's important for any indigenous player who gets drafted or moves interstate or comes from a different area to connect with the other indigenous people in their community," Harbrow said.

"It's always a challenge because you grow up and culture is something that's always a part of you.

"Finding the indigenous people within that area helps with your transition, and helps with connecting to people outside the footy club, so that when you're not there, there's a community you can always go back to."

The AFL will celebrate its indigenous history with the Sir Doug Nicholls Round to be held across rounds 10 and 11 of the home and away season.