STUART Dew has launched a passionate defence of Gold Coast small forward Izak Rankine following the Suns' 52-point QClash loss to Brisbane on Sunday.
The clever 22-year-old has had a disjointed start to the season, starring in round one against West Coast, missing two matches with a corked quad and then having two quiet games against Carlton and St Kilda.
Against the Lions he gathered 16 disposals, three clearances and had five score involvements.
SUNS v LIONS Full match coverage and stats
When asked about Rankine's progress post-match, Dew was quick to defend the South Australian.
"I thought he bounced back," Dew said.
"He knew last week was poor and he got busy tonight, more intensity, physically he was in good shape.
"He's played 34 games, he averages 11 touches and a goal a game and there's a guy at the other end, No.23 (Charlie Cameron) for Brisbane, that averages 11 touches and a goal-and-a-half, who's played 156 games.
"We understand he's under the microscope, but at the same point in his career he's very similar to a lot of these guys.
"I just want to, not protect Izak, but stick up for him. He's on the path. He's working so hard.
"He's not the player that people say. He's not selfish. He's the ultimate team-man and he's working hard at his craft.
"When we get better, he'll get better. He'll help us get better. They'll work together. He'll be fine but his work-rate was really good tonight."
Rankine was held well by direct opponent Brandon Starcevich before being moved on-ball midway through the match where he added some flair to Gold Coast's midfield brigade.
Dew said it was something the Suns would continue to do with the energetic Rankine.
"He's in the infancy of his development, so we'll just keep working on him, but tonight was a step forward in that.
"We love Izak at our footy club and we'll keep working with him. It's simple as that.
"I've probably showed a bit of frustration because I think that the bar is very high for this lad, and we get it. But I guess when we get an opportunity, we'll just give a little bit of perspective and reality."
While Dew was frustrated by the way his team gave up easy goals with "fundamental errors", he was pleased with their work-rate.
Brisbane counterpart Chris Fagan praised his opponents, saying it was the best they've played against the Suns under his tenure.
"I actually think that was our best win for the year," Fagan said.
"Their contest, their pressure was outstanding. Our contest, our pressure was equally as good.
"The critical moments in the game, we were able to come through. It was a tight and tough game."