A tearful Kyle Flanagan vowed not to “wave the white flag” and prove that he has what it takes to be a long-term NRL playmaker after being dropped for Canterbury’s match against Canberra at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
Flanagan, who revealed he had to be needled up to return to the field midway through the second half of last Sunday’s loss to St George Illawarra, had been replaced during the interval by an unhappy Trent Barrett and failed to earn a recall.
With Flanagan’s half-time replacement Lachlan Lewis ruled out with the rib injury that led to him being taken to hospital along with centre Corey Allan, Barrett has opted for Fiji halfback Brandon Wakeham ahead of the 22-year-old.
After being shown the door by Sydney Roosters in dramatic circumstances at the end of his first season with the club last year, Flanagan admitted he was “heartbroken” to have suffered another fall from grace but insisted he would fight back.
“Obviously with what has happened the last two years I just want to prove to people that I am a good footy player,” Flanagan said. “I have obviously got the football family … so I just want to do them proud.”
Asked about the support he had received from his father, Shane, the 2016 Cronulla premiership-winning coach, Flanagan choked back tears.
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“He’s been …. an amazing part of my career and having him at home is pretty special,” Flanagan said. “I think he takes his footy hat off and sometimes just gives me advice as a son and it is always good going home to him.”
The Bulldogs team hadn’t been announced at the time Flanagan spoke to the media on Tuesday and he insisted that he was hopeful of playing, despite a rib cartilage injury that would again require needling.
“It’s hard. No halfback likes to come off when the game is in the balance,” Flanagan said.
“But the most disappointing thing is that this club isn’t winning footy games and one thing I have learned in my career so far is that you have got to win footy games to stay in the business so that is just how it is.
“I have a lot of belief in myself that I am a good footy player and I am ready to go again. I feel like I am quite a tough kid and things don’t faze me too much, so I’ll keep pushing forward and it is just a part of my football career, I imagine.”
Flanagan is part of a young backline Barrett is assembling at the club that includes Allan, centre Nick Cotric and five-eighth Jake Averillo. Matt Burton and Josh Addo-Carr will join the club next season.
Allan is 23, Cotric 22, Burton 21 and Averillo 20 years of age.
After making his NRL debut at the Sharks in 2019 and moving to the Roosters last season, Flanagan admitted it had been tougher at the Bulldogs than he expected, particularly with the responsibility of leading the team around.
“It probably has, to be honest. I think coming through the juniors and obviously at the Roosters last year I wasn’t used to losing too many footy games,” he said.
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“It is a different situation here but I am not waving the white flag. I am going to get back on the training field, keep training hard."
Flanagan said he had spoken with Barrett about the reasons behind his demotion, which centred on his decision-making at the end of sets.
“We are on the same page there,” he said of Barrett. “It is only the smallest of fixes but the impact it can have on a footy team is massive.
“This club’s not in a position to be losing many more games so we want to fix things now, so we aren’t in the same position in 12 months or 18 months.”
His Canterbury team-mates have rallied around Flanagan.
“I got a phone call from every one of them after the game and I definitely feel supported by them,” he said. "We have got quite a close group of young guys here, with Corey Allan and Nick Cotric, who have been really supportive of me.
“It is just a bump in the road and I am going to get back to training and I am confident I can get back to form.”
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