Kyle Flanagan gives Cronulla Sharks glimpse of the future in NRL debut

Happy days: Kyle Flanagan celebrates a try with Valentine Holmes during his first grade debut. Picture: John Veage
Happy days: Kyle Flanagan celebrates a try with Valentine Holmes during his first grade debut. Picture: John Veage

Kyle Flanagan went into training at Shark Park last Friday as normal to work on his goalkicking.

With only two rounds before the NRL finals, the 19-year-old Flanagan believed his chance to make his first grade debut this season had gone.

But then it happened. Flanagan was dragged into the coach’s office. There his father, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan, told him Matt Moylan was being rested as a precaution over a hamstring problem.

All of a sudden he was playing. Kyle Flanagan, an Aquinas Colts junior, a life-long Cronulla fan, would become Shark No.524.

While Flanagan told the Leader he was “shocked” to have been given his call up for the 38-12 victory over Newcastle, he was also excited by the glimpse into the future players like he and fellow local junior Jayden Brailey have given Sharks fans.

“Hopefully there is a few boys from the club that come through the ranks. We’ve trained forever together over the last five years,” he said. 

Kyle Flanagan. Picture: John Veage

Kyle Flanagan. Picture: John Veage

“That’s the ultimate goal for me to play with my mates that I’ve come through the ranks with. That would be unbelievable.

“[Winning a premiership with Cronulla] would be pretty special. Obviously I’m from the shire, I’ve loved the Sharks my whole life. That would be a complete dream.”

It has already been a massive year for Flanagan, with his NRL debut the cherry on top.

He has been outstanding for Newtown in the Intrust Super Premiership, earning the captaincy of the ISP NSW Residents team. Flanagan also captained the NSW under-20s team against Queensland prior to State of Origin III.

Flanagan enjoyed a steady top grade debut. Coach Shane said Kyle had warmed into the game after an inauspicious start, giving away a penalty in the second minute for a high tackle on Shaun Kenny-Dowall and a handling error.

“The older blokes are pretty good. They made my job pretty simple, make my tackles and play well,” he said.

“I wanted to make my first tackle and went looking for it. Missed my technique there.

“I didn’t want to overplay my hand in my first game. Obviously I can build off that. It’s their team not my team. I just wanted to play well and do my job.

“It definitely was fast. I probably noticed it after half-time.

“There’s boys that have played Origin and for Australia and [Luke Lewis’] last home game was pretty special. And the boys wanted to play well for [Lance Thompson].”

As for playing for his dad, Flanagan junior said it was something he was now used to.

“Coming through the juniors ranks I had to deal with it a lot. I’m definitely used to it now. He treats me the same as everyone else,” he said.

“If we’re watching the footy he can’t switch off from being a coach. But other than that when we’re at home we don’t talk about footy too much.”

Brailey told the Leader he was “stoked” to share the experience with his childhood friend.

“I’ve known Kyle since I was seven or eight. He played with my brother and my dad coached him at Aquinas Colts. They won like 10 comps in a row,” he said.

“[We’ve] been on heaps of holidays together. [He was] like a little brother for me out there looking after him. It was good to be able to be out there with him and experience it with him.

“In our little huddle I just said back yourself, you’re here for a reason. And just play with confidence. A few times there he was up in the line breaks in support, I think he was hunting a try. But I thought he was really good. I was stoked to see him out there.

“It’s really exciting. Obviously Lewy is going and a lot of those [older] boys are going to be heading off in a couple of years time. You can kind of see that next generation coming through.”