Trent Barrett claims Canterbury always planned to bring Kyle Flanagan back from NRL exile and into first grade, venting his frustration of criticism levelled against the club – and offering insight into revelations he had to ask Phil Gould’s permission to give the halfback a run in first grade.
Flanagan’s return against defending premiers Penrith has prompted fierce debate around the Bulldogs’ handling of the half, with the team on a three-game losing streak.
Barrett has been accused of setting the halfback up to fail in the clash against Penrith, with Canterbury’s last premiership-winning five-eighth Braith Anasta labelling the selection a hospital pass.
That in itself prompted a staunch defence from Phil Gould, adamant he was a major part of the decision in how to treat the 23-year-old this pre-season.
Kyle Flanagan – seen here playing against Souths last year – was the centre of a media storm when his call-up to first grade was announced. Coach Trent Barrett and Dogs boss Phil Gould have struck back and revealed how they came to their decision
Gould’s revelation that Barrett (pictured) had to ask his permission before naming Flanagan at halfback for the match against Penrith raised eyebrows – but the coach says there’s a simple explanation
On Thursday Gould revealed he had the final say in the decision to put Flanagan back into first grade.
‘It’s not Trent Barrett who has made a decision on when he comes back to first grade,’ Gould said on his Six Tackles With Gus podcast.
‘Trent wanted him in the side, but he came and asked me for permission to do it. I could have easily said no if I didn’t think he was ready. I said yes.’
Barrett said he felt Gould was trying to take pressure off him and the team by making the eyebrow-raising statement.
‘Gus is the GM here and we discuss a lot of things,’ he told the Daily Telegraph.
‘It was good for him to go out and say what he said. We do work closely together.’
The Bulldogs are confident the time is right for Flanagan to be Matt Burton’s third halves partner in five games.
The Dogs powerbrokers say Flanagan thoroughly deserves his return to the NRL after ironing out problems with his game during a run of good form in reserve grade
Dropped after nine rounds last year and used sparingly since then, Flanagan has helped the Bulldogs to an undefeated opening month in reserve grade while taking the line on and playing with confidence.
‘We had a plan from the get go, so we stuck to it,’ Barrett said.
‘I think it’s worked. Kyle’s performances (in NSW Cup) have helped him relax a little and he’s playing well.
‘They’re the only factors that really came into it, when we thought he was ready.
‘There were discussions with Kyle and other people close to him about how we wanted him to develop.
‘We thought that he needed time to work on a few things in his game. And to his credit, he’s done that.’
An angry Gould lashed out at critics in the media who said the club was failing in its duty of care to Flanagan by throwing him into the fray against the powerhouse Panthers
Barrett said he had not had conversations with Flanagan around how long the No.7 jersey would be guaranteed, after both Jake Averillo and Brandon Wakeham lasted only two weeks.
Instead, he claimed he hoped Flanagan could hold it for the next 10 seasons, insisting he was what the Bulldogs now needed at halfback.
‘We don’t have to have those conversations. Kyle’s a grown man,’ Barrett said.
‘We’ve got to pick teams that we think can win on the weekend and give us our best chance of winning.
‘We think he can help with our direction. Our attack inside 20 has been been a little bit ordinary I thought.
‘That’s a strong part of Kyle’s game.’
Now that Flanagan has impressed by fixing errors in his game, Barrett hopes he can fill Canterbury’s No.7 jersey for the next 10 years
Barrett does however fear the spotlight on Flanagan this week will add unwanted pressure on the half, after arriving at Canterbury last year when released following one year at the Sydney Roosters.
‘(The commentary is) disappointing,’ Barrett said.
‘We would like to be looking at the other side of it, celebrating how hard Kyle has worked to get back in the team,’ Barrett said.
‘That’s where the focus should be, not on the rest of it and all the innuendo.
‘He’s earned his spot, where that gets misconstrued through all this other stuff I don’t know.’