New Rooster Flanagan dreams of Xerri reunion
New Sydney Roosters halfback Kyle Flanagan will have Cronulla fans feeling nervous after declaring his desire to reunite with former Sharks teammate and best mate Bronson Xerri.
While he has been busy settling into his new life at Bondi, Flanagan has revealed the one-on-one mentoring sessions he's received from the man he's replacing, Cooper Cronk, and how Roosters training is far more intense than what he experienced at the Sharks.
COULD XERRI BE A ROOSTER?
Speculation linking Cronulla excitement machine Bronson Xerri to the Sydney Roosters was already the talk of the rugby league world before colleague Phil Rothfield sent the rumour mill into overdrive when a photograph of Flanagan and the 19-year-old jet skiing surfaced on social media.
While they can't play football together this season - they are both contracted to their respective clubs until the end of 2021 - Flanagan made it clear he would relish the chance to line up alongside Xerri again in the future.
"We're best mates, I just had that Sea-Doo for the weekend," Flanagan said of that photo.
"Uncle Buzz got us good.
"We're childhood mates, it's our dream to play footy together but he's on contract there at the Sharks but if we can play together that would be an absolute dream for both of our families as well."
It's the old adage that hard work beats talent, and it's an ethos on which the Roosters have thrived.
"It's been unreal so far, training has been a lot harder than what I'm used to at the Sharks," Flanagan revealed.
"The intensity in training is obviously at another level, I think with Cronulla, with the older squad last year, the time on the field and the intensity was pretty low compared to the Roosters … so I'm really enjoying my time at training and getting to know the players.
COFFEE WITH CRONK
Flanagan was a bundle of nerves when he first me premiership master Cooper Cronk in an Eastern Suburbs cafe.
He didn't know the etiquette for meeting a four-time premiership winner for the first time.
But any feelings of anxiousness quickly disappeared for Flanagan when he realised he had a mate, not only a mentor, in Cronk.
"I didn't know him before the Roosters … I was a bit nervous the first time we met, we got a coffee and I didn't know if I should shout him coffee or if he should shout me coffee … I offered anyway," Flanagan said with a laugh.
"It was pretty overwhelming but every time I see him now he is more like a mate, not just a coach or mentor."
Cronk, who helped guide the Bondi club to back-to-back titles, has been having one-on-one sessions with Flanagan to prepare him for round one.
"I idolised him as a kid," Flanagan said.
"Just doing little stuff with him one-on-one and then doing a bit of kicking with him on the side after training.
"Cooper is going to be massive for me during the year. I can always go to him and ask him questions.
"I don't want to give too much away, but we went through some simple things that I will be able to put into my game that will give me a good start.
"I'm focused on not going from zero to a hundred real quick … give myself a couple of rounds just to build my game and that starts with my defence and that starts with the trust of the team and showing I can really play footy."
As well as the guidance from Cronk, Flanagan has access to league Immortal Andrew Johns through the NSW Origin Emerging Blues pathways.
Flanagan has only played nine NRL games and is keen to soak up every bit of footballing knowledge from Johns.
After leading the Sharks to an unlikely victory against Melbourne in round eight this year, Johns declared Flanagan a "200-game player".
"I've done bits and pieces with Joey, he's honestly the king for me … when he's talking I make sure I'm listening to what he is saying and taking everything on board I can't wait to go and talk to him actually," Flanagan said.
"Joey is a natural footy player, Cooper is a bit different (more structured). So if I can take a bit out of each of their games I'll be very happy."
FATHER AND SON
Once a budding father-son combination at Cronulla, Flanagan and his father Shane now find themselves at rival clubs.
Flanagan Sr is an assistant coach at St George Illawarra and has tried his hand at a bit of reconnaissance - albeit unsuccessfully.
"He's always asking me questions 'what are you doing at training?' and I just say 'I can't tell ya'," Flanagan said with a laugh.
"But personally, he'll be helping my game during the year and if he wants to go to the park and have a quick we'll do that for sure."
The young playmaker also admitted he is relieved not to have the pressure of being coach by his dad.
"Everyone talks about that pressure but that's probably off my shoulders now. We did get to play one game together, he coached me on my debut game [at Cronulla]. We both love NRL and it's good he's back in the game and I can't wait to verse the Dragons, it's going to be unreal.
Only six months after re-signing with the Sharks in December 2018, Flanagan was granted a release to link with the Roosters.
It's a decision the Cronulla junior made with a heavy heart.
"It was pretty disappointing to leave Cronulla," Flanagan said.
"If things could have worked out there, I probably would have stayed. But I owe it to the Roosters for letting me play in their team and I want to show Roosters fans and the club, that I really want to [be here]."