Jordan Rankin has been handed the chance to finally prove he belongs in the NRL after his surprise emergence as a key component in the Wests Tigers’ finals charge.
Rankin will fill in at fullback for injured Tigers fullback James Tedesco, who has been ruled out for four to six weeks with a broken jaw.
Much of the Tigers’ late-season resurgence now rests in Rankin’s hands as he fills in the key position over the final three rounds and possibly beyond.
Of Rankin’s 36 first grade appearances, more than half have come this year since his move to Concord.
He became the third youngest player to debut when he turned out for Gold Coast at just 16 back in 2008.
After managing just 17 appearances over six years, he departed for the English Super League with his confidence badly battered and questioning.
However, after being offered a contract by the Tigers, he has played 19 games this year, mostly on the wing.
“Teddy’s a big loss for us and what he does speaks for itself and he’s been awesome for us the last couple of years,” hooker Dene Halatau said.
“It is a big loss but Jordan’s filled in for him this year and done a great job.
“I think his versatility and the fact he can cover a number of positions, he’s shown he can cover wherever he’s asked. He’ll do a job for us on Friday night.”
For many, the loss of Tedesco is seen as the coup de grace for Jason Taylor’s side’s final chances, who have defied expectations to be 10th and two points outside the eight.
But his teammates are maintaining complete faith in the 24-year-old and his ability to get the job done starting with Friday night’s crucial clash with fellow top eight aspirants Penrith.
“Jordan’s played fullback a couple of times this year, he hasn’t let us down, he’s safe under the high ball,” prop Sauaso Sue said.
“He does his job well.”