GOLD Coast coach Stuart Dew has thrown his support behind the prodigiously talented Izak Rankine, saying the 21-year-old's output should be compared to other gun small forwards at the same formative stage of their AFL careers.
The No.3 pick in the 2018 national draft was again a fringe performer in Saturday's 34-point loss to Geelong, finishing goalless and with just nine possessions to his name.
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He has kicked nine goals in 10 matches this year and is averaging 12.4 disposals, without producing anywhere near as many highlights-reel moments as in his debut season in 2020.
"We know everyone is looking at him and his pressure, his chase around the ball," Dew said.
"He makes mistakes and they get highlighted a lot more than others.
"(Sydney's) Tom Papley, in his first 20 games I think he was 13 touches and one goal, one and a half goals (per game).
"(Carlton great Eddie) Betts was six touches and one goal, Liam Ryan similar, Charlie Cameron similar.
"We've just got to judge him over a slice as a younger player."
Dew stressed that South Australian Rankine - who missed all of 2019 due to injury - had needed to show plenty of resilience just to win a place on an AFL list, a trait that would continue to hold him in good stead.
"His most enjoyable time is on a footy field and regardless of that, there are times he's going to be frustrated as a competitor," he said.
"We're certain there are going to be more good times than bad for Izak.
"We absolutely love him in the footy club.
"He's working hard. If he wasn't working hard we'd be asking questions.
"But we know he's going to keep showing up and he'll find a way."
Dew said he was pleased with his side's consistent effort.
"Our main thing was to bring our effort," he said.
"We'll keep working at our execution, keep hammering away at it.
"Under serious pressure Geelong are a serious footy club obviously - they were in the grand final last year.
"If we bring that effort and intensity against most teams we're in with a big show.
"The pleasing thing was our guys didn't drop away, because last week that's what happened."
Geelong coach Chris Scott admitted it took the Cats a while to work into the game.
"It was an important game for (Gold Coast) to compete really hard and I thought they did that," Scott said.
"That's what we expected and it took a long time for us to get on top.
"It probably wasn't the cleanest game.
"Sometimes you've got to get your hands dirty and accept the way the game is going to be played.
"The key part for us was to hold our nerve when the game was tight."