No player was left more shocked by Bronson Xerri's alleged positive drug test earlier this week than close mate Kyle Flanagan, but the Roosters halfback is determined to not let it distract his own game as he continues to find his way with the defending premiers.
Flanagan, who moved to the Roosters this season after coming through Cronulla's junior systems with Xerri, spoke to reporters on Friday night following his first win in the new colours when his former teammate's name was discussed.
Xerri was provisionally stood down under the NRL's Anti-Doping Policy after allegedly returning a positive A-sample "for exogenous Testosterone, Androsterone, Etiocholanolone and 5b-androstane-3a,17b-diol" after being tested in November.
He will now have the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority but faces up to a four-year ban if results return a positive reading.
Such is the closeness of the pair, reports linked Xerri to the Roosters last November when both he and Flanagan were pictured enjoying a day out on the water over the summer.
"I haven't spoken to him, I'm obviously pretty shattered and shocked with what's going on there but I don't want to comment on that too much and let him do his thing," Flanagan said.
"I haven't had any contact with him, I reached out to try and send some support as a mate. It's not what you want to hear. As I said I'm shattered and still in shock.
"My focus is on the Roosters and bringing success to the Roosters. We needed to get a win."
Flanagan finishes off long-range raid
Flanagan delivered arguably the best game of his short NRL career in Friday night's win against the Bunnies in a result that will settle his nerves after the club went 0-2 to start the year.
"I've got to take control of this footy team, I still want to keep developing my game in that department," Flanagan said.
"That's kicking and directing the boys around. I've got plenty to work on. I think it was a good time to [have off] and understand the Roosters' style of play, their foundations and principles. It was a learning curve for me.
"We're still building, we obviously can't go to 0-200 too quick so we're playing it simple, it was a step in the right direction."
Roosters coach Trent Robinson, who said he'd pulled Flanagan aside during the week to address the Xerri news, was pleased with how he handled the pressure and linked with the side's spine.
"I thought he really brought Angus [Crichton] into the game well," Robinson said.
"The pressure of training has to be high for young players, you have to train them under pressure for them to go out there and for their 12th game has to feel like their 24th.
"We pressure guys like him, Drew Hutchison and Lachie Lam, those halves at training to double their games.
"As a young half you have to expect to be tested right through to your 350th game. I thought he stood up well, it's a really good start."
Match Highlights: Roosters v Rabbitohs
James Tedesco's dominant effort looked to ease any pressure placed on Flanagan throughout the game with the new six-again rule providing the elusive fullback more open space than ever before.
His 13 tackle busts came cutting through the middle of the field in a typical man-of-the-match performance.
"It felt good. I think it will suit our footy and suit me," Tedesco said.
"Obviously it's a lot quicker ruck and fewer stoppages. Both middles are getting a bit more tired so it opened up a lot more space for me around the ruck.
"It's just more about timing, I think it's a bit scrappy at the moment with everyone trying to get a bit more space and trying to execute some plays through that."