GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 25: Mabior Chol, Izak Rankine and Ben Ainsworth of the Suns celebrate a goalduring an AFL Practice Match between Gold Coast Suns and Port Adelaide Power at Metricon Stadium on February 25, 2022 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Gold Coast coach Stuart Dew has defended the work ethic and output of often maligned young forward Izak Rankine, stating the goalsneak is " the ultimate team-man".

Rankine has played just 34 matches for the Suns since joining the club as the third overall selection in the 2019 National Draft, having missed the entirety of his rookie campaign due to injury.

The 22-year-old has battled inconsistency across the past three seasons, at times placed on the periphery of Dew's side due to form, while injuries have also remained present.

Rankine was sidelined for two matches earlier this season due to a corked quad and has been unable to give his side a needed spark in attack across recent weeks.

Albeit in a 52-point loss to Brisbane on Sunday, Rankine showed poise in rotating between the forward line and midfield, having a hand in several scoring plays for the Suns in his 16-disposal outing.

While Rankine ended the evening without a goal, the South Australian notched up five score involvements and three clearances in the QClash defeat in what was a welcomed performance for his senior coach

"I thought he bounced back," Dew said post-game, via AFL.com.au.

"He knew last week was poor and he got busy tonight, more intensity, physically he was in good shape."

AFL Rd 6 - Melbourne v Gold Coast
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 11: Izak Rankine of the Suns kicks celebrates after kicking his first AFL goal during the round 6 AFL match between the Melbourne Demons and the Gold Coast Suns at GIANTS Stadium on July 11, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Rankine has recorded a one goal per game average across his short career with the Queensland club, booting 34 majors and 32 behinds in three seasons.

Dew added that while he understands the amplified attention his lively forward receives, quick comparisons to a younger Charlie Cameron can show Rankine is on the right path.

"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 for Brisbane, that averages 11 touches and a goal-and-a-half, who's played 156 games," Dew added. 

"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 forms a lethal small forward ensemble under Dew, with in-form youngster Malcolm Rosas also emerging in the ranks alongside Ben Ainsworth and Alex Sexton.

The Flinders Park product is also a key retention figure for the Suns, with he and fellow top 2018 draftee Jack Lukosius both unsigned for next season.

The pair are tipped to recommit to the Suns' cause, turning back likely interest from the Power and Crows for 2023 and beyond.

The pair of signatures would further combat the uphill battle of staving off yearly rival interest in the Suns' young talent, with the club having managed to lock away star forward Ben King to a new deal earlier this month.