Rankin family of Geelong
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The Rankins were a pioneering family of the Geelong district. The family produced a dynasty of champion Australian rules footballers, including three captains of the Geelong Football Club and two Carji Greeves medallists.
Migration to Australia
The Rankins came from Braintree district of Essex. In 1841, Samuel Rankin, Sarah Rankin (née Warren) and five of their children were listed as "pauper" inmates of the Braintree Union Workhouse. Ten years later, they secured passage as "assisted migrants" to Australia, arriving in Geelong in 1852. After first settling at Freshwater Creek, near Duneed, the Rankins relocated to Highton. The family prospered in the district. A newspaper records a gathering at which were counted 165 descendants, including 85 great-grandchildren.
It is one of the youngest boys, Walter Rankin (1849–1930), whose line was responsible for the Geelong football dynsaty. One of Walter's sons and one of his grandsons also served in the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War, namely, Cornelius and Edwin's son, Cliff.
Edwin "Teddy" Rankin and his brothers
Edwin "Teddy" Rankin (1872–1944), was a member of Geelong's inaugural Victorian Football League (VFL) team of 1897 and captain of the team. In 1903, he became the first player to play 100 VFL matches for the club and won the Geelong Football Club's best and fairest award. He was also the first player to touch the ball on the ground, rather than bounce it, an innovation within the rules, which was later widely adopted. During his career, Teddy Rankin declined offers to transfer to other clubs. He was also an advocate of amateurism, arguing against the emerging practice of player payments. After football, Teddy Rankin was employed as curator of Geelong College oval for 40 years and Corio Oval for about eight years. Three of his sons played for Geelong.
Bert, Cliff and Doug Rankin
Less than two years after his father had retired as a player, Bert Rankin (1893–1971) was playing senior football. In 1923, Bert Rankin became Geelong captain. When his brother Cliff was appointed vice-captain in the same season, the Rankins became the first brothers to fill both positions in the same VFL team. Bert Rankin's career came to a controversial end in 1923 when, after poor form, the captain was dropped on the eve of the first semi-final. Bert's brother, Cliff, was so upset, that he refused to take the field. The league investigated the matter, suspicious as to why Rankin was dropped and whether this was connected to the defeat of the team. He was awarded Geelong's best and fairest player for the 1917 season and is credited with giving the Geelong club the nickname of "the Cats". After the disappointment of the 1923 season, he left Geelong to coach the Dimboola Football Club.
Bert's younger brother, Clifford, known as "Cliff" or "Ticker"(1896–1975), also became a champion footballer mainly playing as a forward. He captained Geelong, including the 1925 premiership season. Cliff Rankin also served as playing coach of Geelong from 1925 until his retirement in 1927. He represented Victoria 14 times and was captain of the state team in 1926. In that year, he controversially criticised the spiteful play of the Western Australian team. Cliff Rankin was Geelong's leading club goal kicker from 1920 to 1923. His career was interrupted by his war service as a gunner during the First World War in France. While with the army he even represented the Australian Imperial Force in the rival code of rugby, playing as the fullback of the Australian team, which defeated the New Zealand All Blacks. During a game in the 1924 season, as Cliff Rankin was shooting for goal, Arthur Hando of South Melbourne was seen shaking the posts in order to increase the chances of the ball hitting the goalpost, an action for which Hando was subsequently censured by the league. Cliff Rankin was considered by football experts to be the best of the Rankins and was selected in Geelong's "Team of the Century".
The third son of Teddy Rankin to play for Geelong was Edwin "Doug" Rankin (1915–1987). He played nine games and kicked eight goals for Geelong in the 1938–39 seasons, before enlisting for active service in the Second World War.
Other descendants of the Rankins to play at the highest level in AFL (renamed from the VFL in 1990) include the O'Donnells. Gary O'Donnell, a great-grandson of Cliff Rankin, was an Essendon captain and champion centreman. His father, Graeme O'Donnell, played seven games for Geelong and 16 for North Melbourne in the early 1960s.
- J. and J. McDonald, Three William McDonalds, Canberra, 2010, pp. 81–89.
- The Rokewood Gazette, 11 December 1897, p. 3.
- War service files (bar codes 8025369 and 8025370) held in the Australian National Archives.
- Geelong Advertiser, 4 October 1924, p. 4; The Argus, 1 August 1944, p. 5; J. Ross (ed.), 100 Years of Australian Football, Ringwood, 1996, pp. 41-44.
- J. Rankin, 'The Rankin Story', Geelong, 1990, pp. 3–4; http://www.geelongcats.com.au/club/history/every-player/r-z.
- Geelong Advertiser, 25 May 1920, p. 6; Sporting Globe, 10 March 1928, p. 6.
- Sporting Globe, 22 September 1923, p. 1; Geelong Advertiser, 6 November 1923, p. 9; J. Ross (ed.), 100 Years of Australian Football, Ringwood, 1996, p. 113.
- J. Ross (ed.), 100 Years of Australian Football, Ringwood, 1996, p. 159.
- Geelong Advertiser, 17 April 1924, p. 3.
- Geelong Advertiser, 3 August 1923, p. 6; Table Talk, 6 October 1927, p. 15.
- The Age, 3 March 1925, p. 10.
- The Daily News, 5 August 1926, p. 4.
- Geelong Advertiser, 3 August 1923, p. 6; Table Talk, 6 October 1927, p. 15. J. Ross (ed.), 100 Years of Australian Football, Ringwood, 1996, p. 120.
- J. Ross (ed.), 100 Years of Australian Football, Ringwood, 1996, p. 114.
- J. Ross (ed.), 100 Years of Australian Football, Ringwood, 1996, pp. 339,352; M. Maplestone, Flying Higher: History of the Essendon Football Club, 1872–1996, Melbourne, 1996, pp. 561.