Jordan Rankin was enjoying his time in the Super League, had a contract extension in the pipeline but is now looking to revive his NRL career with Parramatta.
The former Titans teen prodigy told NRL.com family reasons were behind his decision to walk out on a contract extension at Castleford at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic for family reasons and his ambition for the 2021 season is to get back into the Telstra Premiership action.
Rankin, who made his NRL debut in 2008 as a precocious 16-year-old, was not only enjoying his time at Castleford but playing well and in discussions to extend his stay there when his partner's grandfather took ill in Australia.
"I came back in May last year when we were in the swing of COVID," Rankin said.
"We'd been locked down in the UK for the better part of eight weeks after finishing round seven the Super League season.
"My partner's grandfather fell ill which was the catalyst to us coming home. We came back without a contract and without talking to any clubs. I left my contract at the Castleford Tigers where I was pretty happy and playing some pretty good footy there.
"I'd just been offered an extension there for another two or three years but I turned that down to come home and put my family first and at the end of the day I'm glad I did it."
The 29-year-old hadn't been home long before the Eels reached out.
"I got a phone call from Peter Sharp who was the recruitment officer at that time, I'd known Sharpy for a while, he gave me a call asking if I wanted to catch up and he asked where I was at, what I was doing and I said I was pretty keen to get back into the NRL," Rankin said.
"I still have a longing to play in the NRL and better myself as a player. Within a couple of days, I'd had a meeting with Brad [Arthur] and a couple of the staff here.
"I got inducted into the bubble when I got here and pretty much stayed in the bubble from the moment I got here from May through to the end of the season.
"I was just very grateful to be back and given an opportunity."
Despite Mitch Moses missing a few games with a calf strain then later Dylan Brown with a syndesmosis injury, Rankin was overlooked for speedster Jai Field – a decision he understands.
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"It was always going to be hard for me considering I came back and not being able to play any footy at all," Rankin said.
"Opportunities came up but there were guys here who'd already done the work before I got here.
"But I've worked really hard in the pre-season, I believe I've gained a lot of trust and respect from the playing group and the coaching staff and I'm looking forward to hopefully pulling on the Parramatta jersey in the NRL this year."
I still have a longing to play in the NRL and better myself as a playerEels utility back Jordan Rankin
Rankin played his first game in almost a year in the Eels' impressive 28-6 trial win over the Dragons and did his chances no harm, guiding the side around since coming on midway through the first half at fullback then at halfback.
"My job's to fit into what we've got here; we've got enough talent and enough guys here to break the game open and win games on the back of their athleticism and individual brilliance alone.
"We've got some pretty good structure and systems here to allow everyone to know what their role is regardless of what position you're playing."
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The versatile utility realises he may have to continue to push his claims in the NSW Canterbury Cup.
"I got asked what my favourite position is and I've come to the realisation I don't really have one," he laughed.
"I like playing fullback and I like playing in the halves so I'm happy to do the job wherever I need to be.
"I'm still pushing for a first-grade jersey every week, I'm still hungry to do that and I still think I have plenty of years left in me."
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