Flanagan can finally overcome Next Big Thing Syndrome without losing any attitude in dog recall
Kyle Flanagan is the latest example of the NRL’s ‘Next Big Thing’ syndrome which has always been a nasty affliction but is only getting worse of late with the growing ubiquity of the rugby league media landscape.
He also has to deal with the accompanying sickness of “The Famous Surname” that comes with having a father that resulted in one of the most memorable victories as prime minister of the modern era.
The 23-year-old playmaker has garnered more media attention than his peers since he was a high school student and is at the center of the news cycle again this week after being recalled to the Canterbury line-up for the first times this year. .
Stepping into a team that has already beaten two halfbacks in the space of four rounds is hard enough, but it becomes a monumental task when the team has lost three in a row, culminating in a 44-0 thrashing in the week. last, and this Sunday. The mission takes on the undefeated Prime Ministers Penrith.
He’s been described as ‘hiding for nothing’ and taking ‘a poisoned gift’, but beggars can’t choose and Flanagan must be well aware that he lacks the chance to establish himself as a proper halfback in the league. Long-term NRL or end up like all those other Next Big Things that never lived up to their potential.
Bulldogs manager Trent Barrett played in half-time at St George Illawarra two decades ago alongside a player who had huge expectations placed on him far too soon and it nearly derailed his career.
Willie Peters was a promising prospect at South Sydney early in his career when manager Craig Coleman branded him “the next Peter Sterling”, a tag that meant fans and commentators expected the youngster halfback is on the way to greatness. He was a strong first year in the NRL and Super League for many years, but he was never going to be in Sterlo’s class.
A few years later, Tim Smith was bestowed Next Big Thing status while wearing Sterling’s famous No.7 jersey. After a superb rookie year, all signs pointed to Smith being a longtime star in the blue and gold, but fame was too much for him at a young age and he only played two full seasons at Parra before to bounce around in the Super League. , Cronulla and Brisbane without ever meeting high expectations.
There are many other examples of players who had expected too much of them too soon and it turned out to be too much. As the late great Jack Gibson said, “The rugby league graveyard is full of potential players”. It only guarantees so much.
Flanagan started making headlines when he was drafted into the Auckland Nines team from Cronulla in early 2017 as a teenager and it looked like he was destined to be a game-changer when he played that year- there in the National Youth Championship, scoring 20 tries and scoring 140 goals to break the competition’s goalscoring record.
The following year he dominated at NSW Cup level and earned a run as a freshman towards the end of the season in what turned out to be the only time he was coached by his father Shane.
At the end of 2019, he knew his chances of playing regularly in the NRL were limited behind Shaun Johnson and Chad Townsend, so he accepted an offer to join the Roosters to succeed Cooper Cronk, who was retiring.
Everything seemed to be going well until the middle of the 2020 season when he was dropped for Round 13 and the Roosters being the wary birds that they are, said nothing. It was speculated to be a young half resting in the middle of a grueling campaign, but coach Trent Robinson debunked that theory a few days later saying he had been dropped.
Their failure to report why Flanagan was not on the roster when it was announced Tuesday turned what was always going to be a big news story into an even bigger news story.
Flanagan returned to the team a few weeks later and played the season, but his confidence had taken a monumental hit which only got worse after their semi-final exit when the Roosters put his head on the chopping block after their failure to secure a rare premiership. triple.
His disappointment at being cheated quickly dissipated as the Bulldogs snatched him to a lucrative three-year contract.
But he had just one win in his 13 appearances last season for the Dogs as he was inside and outside the side rushing towards the wooden spoon.
Based on that form, it was no big surprise that Barrett wanted to try something new in 2022 with star rookie Matt Burton filling the five-eights role.
But despite all the hype about their recruiting drive and the millions of dollars spent, the Dogs still don’t have another solid option at halfback.
Jake Averillo, who lasted two games at the start of the year, is better suited at crosses while Brandon Wakeham, who has partnered Burton over the past fortnight in back-to-back losses, looks destined to be a utility of career bench after failing to make the most of several chances over the past few years.
Which comes down to Flanagan.
This is his chance. And that’s not necessarily bad.
Does anyone expect Canterbury to close in on the Panthers on Sunday? Any loss of 30 points or less would be an improvement over what most experts expect. Show some improvement and you can potentially even keep the gig going for three consecutive weeks.
Unlike Averillo and Wakeham, he has the full organizational game that can complement Burton. If the Dogs can get a play duo with some spark, then Josh Addo-Carr, Matt Dufty and Averillo can show off their offensive prowess on a grand scale.
“He’s a top-notch player,” Addo-Carr said Wednesday. “I took him aside and just told him that I still support him and if Kyle is on, I feel like the whole team will be on. We need that dominant half to step up for us and I feel like Kyle did that in reserve class and he can gain a lot of confidence going back down to reserve class and back up to freshman. I’m really excited for him.
Dufty added, “I’m sure if you ask Kyle if he wants to play against the Panthers, he’ll jump at the chance.
“What better chance to reclaim your place against the reigning Prime Ministers?”
Flanagan can’t be conservative. The main problem with his game over the past two seasons has been a lack of creativity, especially in the last play in attack on the right ball chances.
Unlike last year when he was surrounded by players struggling to break the defensive line, Flanagan can now run the ball wide or attempt a tactical kick knowing there is a better chance that this leads to points.
He’s under contract until the end of next year and, in theory, he has plenty of time left in his career to establish himself as an elite playmaker. He’s only 23 and has only played 42 NRL games in roughly three seasons, although it looks like he’s been around a lot longer.
But in reality, time is running out quickly for Flanagan to prove he can overcome the double pressure of being the next big thing and having the famous last name.