Izak Rankine says a simple change in mindset has helped him rediscover the form that had pundits so excited early in his career.
Since being taken with the No.3 pick in the 2018 NAB AFL Draft, Rankine has had the eyes of the competition on him, with his attacking flair and cheeky smile a magnet to outsiders.
After a rollercoaster first three seasons, he started 2022 with a bang against West Coast, kicking four goals from 23 disposals in round one.
However, a corked quad forced Rankine to miss the next two weeks and upon return the 22-year-old struggled to impact.
Things have turned though.
After kicking 2.2 from 13 touches in the Suns' win over Sydney, Rankine shone like a beacon through the gloomy Gold Coast weather in Sunday's win over Fremantle.
This time it wasn't the silky skills or his audacious talent, but a ferocity around the ball and relentless defensive pressure that offered up the rewards.
Rankine finished with 18 disposals – a career-high 15 of them contested – that led to 11 score involvements. He was credited with four tackles, but his second and third efforts were often responsible for Fremantle turnovers or rushed disposals.
"I'm just getting back to my roots, not worrying about anything else," Rankine told AFL.com.au.
"I'm not worrying about my game, anyone else's game, what other people are saying, just going out there and having fun.
"I'm just getting in good positions, finding the ball, chasing the ball, tackling, just doing things I love, just mucking around, being cheeky, trying snaps at goal, that's my game.
"The last couple of weeks I've been really focussed on surrounding myself with my family, good people I have at the club and it's come out in my game."
Rankine said it had been difficult finding the balance at AFL level between playing off instinct and sticking within a structure the team likes playing in.
He said Head Coach Stuart Dew had been a huge influence on him.
Following Gold Coast's round six loss to Brisbane, Dew launched a passionate defence of Rankine's progress, likening the start of his career to Lions' whiz Charlie Cameron.
"I just want to, not protect Izak, but stick up for him," Dew said at the time.
"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."