Kyle Flanagan is happy to play the role of linkman with star playmaker Matt Burton and fullback Matt Dufty as the new look Canterbury team continues to improve.
The Bulldogs travel to Canberra on Friday night in search of back-to-back wins after downing Sydney Roosters 16-12 last weekend in their best performance of the season.
Burton was outstanding and his 18 kicks, which yielded 662 metres, included a crucial 40/20 that led to the match winning try by winger Jayden Okunbor, while Dufty finished with a try assist and five tackle breaks.
While Flanagan wasn’t as dominant in attack, he guided the team around and combined with Burton and Dufty, while making 20 tackles.
“I think my defence is something I can definitely build off and I want to build my combinations and my attacking game,” Flanagan said.
“I am steering the ship, so to speak, and getting us into the right field positions to get Matt Dufty the ball in space or Matt Burton the ball in space to isolate defenders.
“They are your strike players so that is the role of the halfback.
“Me and Burto try to link up as much as we can. That is something we need to keep building on; getting Burto on the left side of the field or getting him on the right and getting Dufty on the left and me being the link between all of them.
“We are working really hard on our combinations and the more we can fire as a spine this footy team is going to go places.”
After starting the season in NSW Cup, Flanagan has now played the last four matches alongside Burton and Dufty, who were among a host of new recruits to join the Bulldogs this year.
Since his arrival at Belmore, Burton has had three different halves partners as coach Trent Barrett tries to find the playmaker who best compliments the 2021 premiership winner so he can effectively use his speed, strength, footwork and kicking game.
Burton and Flanagan now appear settled as Canterbury’s first choice pairing.
“One of the reasons I got back into this footy team was to help him and we are also good mates off the field,” Flanagan said. “We're really working on combinations and we really want to succeed for this footy club together."
“He puts a lot of confidence in me and he lets me just control the footy team. When he wants the ball, he gets it and I know that when he calls for the ball it will be in good field position.
“The more your spine can touch the ball in good field positions it is going to help the footy team. I feel like my combination with Burto, Jezza [hooker Jeremy Marshall-King] and Duft is going to get better each week and we are on the same page going forward.”
The win over the Roosters was even sweeter for Flanagan as he was let go by the club in 2020 after moving from Cronulla at the end of the 2019 season.
Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Roosters
It was the first time the 23-year-old had played the Roosters since joining Canterbury and he admitted there had been added motivation to win.
"I definitely put it down in the calendar when we'd be versing the Chookies," he said.
"I've got a lot of good mates there. I played a World Club Challenge [in 2020] with those guys and I have a lot of respect for them but there was definitely extra motivation to go out there and win."