GOLD Coast coach Stuart Dew has praised the performance of exciting forward Izak Rankine, who responded to a week of criticism with a scintillating four-goal effort against Hawthorn on Saturday night.
Dew was forced to defend Rankine after he finished goalless and with just nine disposals against Geelong last week.
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But at the SCG on Saturday, the 21-year-old kicked a career-high four goals, including three in the first quarter.
Dew said post-match it was great to see Rankine hitting the scoreboard, although he disputed the notion his small forward had been in poor form necessarily.
“We don’t think he’s been in (bad) form. People look at the goals column no doubt, and they see four and think he played really well, which he did,” Dew said.
“But there’s been some other games where he’s been high in goal assists and we knew a performance like this wasn’t far away.
“It’s always good to see the Indigenous lads play well (during Indigenous Round).”
Dew also was full of praise for midfielder Touk Miller, who finished with 37 touches, nine marks and a goal.
He said since he joined the club as coach, Miller had been ultra-consistent and someone you could rely on week in, week out.
“As a footballer, as an athlete, he’s always looking at ways he can improve both the physical part, but also the mental preparation of the game,” Dew said.
“And I think he’s really taken ownership … I can’t take any credit for Touk, he’s self-driven, he’s a professional athlete that has a real thirst for improving and impacting the footy club.
“We’re a better club with him around the place.”
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson meanwhile was disappointed by his side’s poor start against the Suns.
He noted Gold Coast’s forward-half domination early, with the Suns recording the first 14 inside 50s of the game.
“We just found that we were plugging holes right across the course of the game,” Clarkson said,
“The first part of the game they just smacked us in the contest, and had the game played totally in their half of the ground.
“It wasn’t really until the last quarter that the game was played more in our terms.”
Despite his side languishing near the bottom of the ladder, Clarkson said his players remained upbeat.
He said he was also pleased to get some games into youngsters such as Ned Reeves and Damon Greaves.
“The group understands where we’re at,” he said,
“We feel we’re better than two wins and nine losses, but having said that the scoreboard in a lot of ways doesn’t lie either.
“We know our depth is being tested throughout the course of the year, and at some point in time that’s going to pay dividends for us because we’re giving some exposure to some younger players."