Leagues: NAB League Boys
POSITION: Medium Utility
SNAPSHOT: "A versatile prospect with high-level smarts and evasion, Rankin showcases clean skills in every third of the ground."
A mainstay throughout the elite talent pathway, Lachlan Rankin has picked up plenty of representative honours along his junior footballing career. The versatile Oakleigh Chargers product was part of Vic Metro's Under 16s and 19s campaigns, while also earning a late call-up to the AFL Academy squad in April and being named in the 2021 APS Football Merit Team. The 18-year-old's clean hands and skills are indicative of his pure footballing talent, backed by clever evasive technique and a terrific sense of surrounding. He only managed four NAB League games this year, also turning out for Caulfield Grammar, but has shown plenty of form at high levels to prove his class in a variety of roles.
+ Clean hands
- Inside game
Rankin started his top-age campaign with a bang in one of the most watched NAB League games in recent memory. He burst out of the blocks with Oakleigh's first two goals, lining up next to highly touted Sandringham Dragons skipper Josh Sinn in a relatively new forward role. In that game and beyond, Rankin showcased his versatility and wickedly slick skills - two of his greatest weapons as a footballer.
The 182cm prospect had previously impressed as a running half-back and wingman with clean kicking skills and top-end decision making. He carried those traits over to his forward-midfield rotation, proving a confident finisher in front of goal and getting creative inside 50. With smarts and one-touch handling, Rankin is also a terrific front-and-centre crumber who makes the most of whatever delivery he receives.
When shifted further afield, the 18-year-old looks to set up play by foot. Whether taking the kick-ins or making sound decisions in open play, Rankin has an efficient short and long game to go with his quick and clever work by hand. His ability to adapt his skills to roles at either end of the ground and bring competitiveness to each line would undoubtedly have been a terrific wildcard for his coaches.
While not the quickest of players, Rankin's mind is much more nimble that others' and allows him to get out of tight spots. With his terrific spacial awareness, he often feints one way but turns on a dime and heads the other, allowing more time to execute his skills under less pressure. Rankin is also surprisingly good overhead, not afraid to leap for marks and put his light frame in the way of aerial contests.
Speaking of a light frame, that is arguably one area Rankin will look to enhance. He weighed in at 68kg at the start of the year and is quite proficient on the outside, but can certainly add some muscle to ensure his crumbing game and competitiveness translate to higher levels. He is not unfamiliar with featuring at the centre bounces and has the nous and work rate to thrive there, but can also develop his inside craft as he grows.
DRAFT PROJECTION: 35-60
As far as natural footballers go, Rankin is one of the cleverest and most efficient in this year's crop. Most of what he does is economical and he can adapt his skills to suit a variety of roles on all three lines. He works hard and makes things happen in possession with quick thinking, factors which also suit the pace of the modern game. Given his accolades and glimpses of class this year, he could well rank around the second round for some clubs, but will likely offer great value a little later on.
NAB League Boys