Jamilla Rankin primed for World Cup opportunity

Brisbane Roar defender Jamilla Rankin has an eye on representing Australia on the world’s biggest stage. 

Named as a potential bolter for the Matildas FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 squad, Rankin says being part of that team is in the back of her mind. 

“The World Cup is always in the back of the mind and what you’re working towards but you have to stay in the moment and work on playing well this season,” she said. 

“If the opportunity comes you just have to take it.”

Growing up in the New South Wales Northern River region, Rankin played her junior football for Eureka Football Club before attending Trinity Catholic College in Lismore.  

As a 14-year-old, she made the move to Brisbane, where she attended Cavendish Road High School, well-known for its football academy, as part of the Queensland Academy of Sport Program. 

Since then, her football career has moved in leaps and bounds, establishing herself as a key figure in the Roar’s Liberty A-League defensive line since making her debut, at just 16 years old, in March 2020 against Melbourne City. 

Just a year later the young defender went on to earn her maiden CommBank Matildas call-up for their match against the Republic of Ireland.  

Rankin was also on the bench for two matches against the United States at Newcastle and Sydney last year. 

“My football career has moved quite quickly, still being so young a lot of things have happened and I’ve been thrown in the deep end a few times but I think it’s always good,” Rankin said. 

“I just come out of it with more experience at the end.” 

The former QAS Player of the Year would then earn her first Matildas cap in July this year when she came on as a substitute for Emily van Egmond against Spain. 

It’s a moment that still hasn’t sunk in quite yet for Rankin. 

“I never thought I’d get to play for the team I’ve looked up to my whole life.

“It was just a great opportunity and I’m striving to get there again. 

“I think you just have to be prepared physically and mentally to step up when you’re in that environment.”  

Being able to train and play alongside players she has looked up to throughout her junior years, has been quite surreal for the 19-year-old.  

“I’ve just idolised them all so when I get to see them in person and say hello, give them a hug it’s just a pinch me moment,” Rankin said. 

“The players you’re surrounded by; you watch on TV and then you’re in a training session with them so it’s pretty crazy,” she added. 

Making the change mid-last season from left back to the central defence, was a big learning curve for Rankin.   

Rankin is hoping she can continue to be consistent and cement her role in the Roar’s defensive line further.  

“Playing centre-back is a different role for me this season so I’m just looking to cement my spot where I can,” she said.

“I’ve had a lot of support from the club, obviously big leaders like the Polks [Clare Polkinghorne] she really helped me step up when I was quite young. 

“I’ve looked up to her for so long and to have her a bit of a mentor for me was just honestly… you can’t buy that!” 

Brisbane Roar will face the Newcastle Jets on Friday 23 December at 5pm AEST.