By STEVE MASCORD
BOOM Wests Tigers winger Jordan Rankin says he could have been washed up barely into his 20s if not for a career-saving two-year stint with Hull.
In 2008, Rankin became the third youngest debutant in Australian first class rugby league history when he made his debut for Gold Coast at the age of 16 years and 238 days.
But he tells League Week he couldn’t handle the resultant pressure and was facing the possibility his NRL career was over before it began.
“It was a double-edged sword,” says Rankin, now 24.
“There was a lot of expectation on a kid. I was still in year 11 at school when I debuted and … mate, I didn’t live up to it. I didn’t live up to those standards people had set for me.
“I had a lot of growing up to do, maturity wise, with the way I played rugby league.
“To thrust a kid in at that age, there’s only a select few who will be able to handle it. I have no doubt that 18 is a good age now for kids (to make their debut).
“It’s not so much physically ready. It’s the mental side of the game that people have lacked in the past and it’s something I lacked as well, just having to deal with the media and how to shut that out.”
The call from Humberside came when he was at his lowest.
“Hull definitely saved my career,” he said. “They instilled so much confidence in what I can do.
“It was a decision I had to make pretty quickly while I was at the Titans. It’s a place I wasn’t getting a run, playing first grade and it was messing with my confidence a bit, playing Queensland Cup and messing with my confidence.
“I just thought it was a good opportunity to go over there and start afresh where no-one knew who I was. Hull … hadn’t even seen me play in person, they’d only seen me play on tape.”
“The two years I had in England matured me as a kid and all the media I had as a young kid, I learned to deal with that a little nit better as well.”Rankin, who scored two tries in the 30-22 win over South Sydney on Thursday, reckons the lessons he learned as an over-hyped rookie have helped him deal with the scorn heaped upon Wests Tigers during a six-match losing streak.
“You have the people close to you whose opinions mean more to you and people who don’t know you from a bar of soap and the people who judge you from the grandstands are the ones you don’t really need to listen to,” he says.
“You try to stay away from the people who are negative about how you play and what you bring to a team.”
And while he’s making a go of it on the flanks, Rankin doesn’t want coach Jason Taylor to forget it’s not the only string to his bow.
“I’d never say never to playing in the halves again or playing fullback again,” he said. “It’s definitely the two positions I feel more comfortable in.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK