Dogs defend timing of Kyle Flanagan return
Scott Bailey |
Matt Dufty has defended Canterbury’s decision to recall Kyle Flanagan against Penrith, claiming the time is right for the playmaker’s NRL return.
Flanagan will become star recruit Matt Burton’s third halfback in five weeks at CommBank Stadium, following the demotions of Jake Averillo and the benched Brandon Wakeham.
The date with the defending premiers will also double as Flanagan’s first NRL game since last year, when he was dropped after nine rounds and only used in four matches for the remainder of the season.
The situation has prompted intense criticism of coach Trent Barrett with former Canterbury playmaker Braith Anasta among those raising concerns.
But Canterbury are adamant that Flanagan is the man for the job, after leading them to an undefeated start to the season in reserve grade.
“I read something this morning that he has been handed a grenade. That’s pretty unfair,” fullback Dufty said.
“I don’t think Baz (Barrett) would do that to anyone on purpose.
“When is the right time to make a change?
“I’m sure if you ask Kyle if he wants to play against Panthers he would jump at the opportunity.”
Flanagan sits second in try-assists in the NSW Cup, while he has taken the line on more than any other halback.
That is in stark contrast to previous seasons.
Earmarked as Cooper Cronk’s replacement when he moved to the Sydney Roosters in 2020, he left the club after one year.
He lasted nine rounds at Canterbury last year, and spent most of the second half of the season on the sideline as the NSW Cup competition was suspended.
He was also not afforded time in the halves alongside Burton in pre-season trials, prompting suggestions he was well down the Bulldogs pecking order.
“In pre-season, me and Kyle spoke a lot about what it’s like, I’ve been in that position before and he just wanted to earn his spot back,” Dufty said.
“What better chance to get your spot back against the reigning premiers?
“All he has to do is come in organise well, kick well and take a bit of pressure off Burto (halfback Matt Burton).
“He doesn’t need to chip and chase and score five tries. He just needs to come in and talk.”
Winger Josh Addo-Carr said teammates had made a point to offer Flanagan their support.
“I have pulled him aside and just told him I will always have his back. If Kyle is on I feel like the whole team is on,” the NSW State of Origin winger said.
“He will be our halfback on the weekend and we need that dominant half to step up for us.
“He has done that in reserve grade, you can build a lot of confidence going to reserve grade and coming back to first grade.
“What a way to come back into the team against Penrith.”AAP