Barrett blasts media innuendo, insisting Flanagan’s earned recall

Canterbury Bulldogs, featured, Kyle Flanagan, League, NRL, Trent Barrett

Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett has labelled the criticism of the decision to recall Kyle Flanagan as “very disappointing” and said the much-maligned halfback has earned his place in the Bulldogs’ NRL side this weekend.

Speaking ahead of his team’s clash with the Panthers at CommBank Stadium on Sunday, Barrett pointed to Flanagan’s record in reserve grade and said the decision to bring him back was based on long-term planning and his own performances.

“He’s done really well,” Barrett said. “He deserves a spot back in the side. Our reserve grade side are undefeated and he’s been a big part of that.”

“I’m really happy for him. He’s deserved his spot to come back in and what better way than against Penrith.

“(The criticism was) very disappointing. We’d like to be looking at the other side of it and celebrating how hard Kyle’s worked to get back in the team.

“He has worked hard and I know that the last 12 months have been difficult for him. He’s put himself in a position where he’s played well in NSW Cup and we’ve rewarded a few guys that have played well there.”

The decision to bring Flanagan in from the cold has been discussed to death in the media, with suggestions of a “duty of care” even raised towards the player in bringing him back for a game that is widely seen as a hiding to nothing for the Dogs as they face the unbeaten Premiers.

Barrett said it was a case of horses for courses and Flanagan could offer something against the Panthers that the other two halfbacks who have featured this season, Jake Averillo and Brandon Wakeham, could not.

“There were discussions that we had with Kyle and the other people close to Kyle about how we wanted him to develop, and we thought that he needed time to work on a few things in his game. To his credit, he’s done it,” he explained.

“That’s where the focus should be. Not on the rest of the innuendo.

Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett looks on
(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

“But he’s earned his spot. Where that gets misconstrued, I don’t know, but I’ve got a team to look after. I just want to coach them and win this weekend and that’s my focus.

“He’s controlled our reserve grade team really well. He’s played on the ball at halfback. We’re four from four there and it’s hard to ignore that sort of form. He’s scored a lot of points, he’s kicking well and his attitude has been really good.

“He can bring direction. Our attack inside 20 has been a little bit ordinary and particularly against Melbourne, we had opportunities where we needed to come over some points.

“Melbourne are difficult team to score against, but there were opportunities there and that’s a strong part of Kyle’s game.

“The other two add something different but and they are completely different, the three of them.

“Some of the things that Kyle has been doing in the twos are things that we wanted him to work on, and he’s done really well.

“They’re things that we look at and when we pick teams we don’t just pull the names out of the hat. There’s a fair bit that goes into it.

“It was always coming. He was knocking on the door, we had a plan with Kyle and it’s worked so he finds himself back in first grade where he wants to be.

“It’s pressure that he doesn’t need in what should be a week where he should be really proud of himself.”

Bulldogs GM Phil Gould said yesterday that any criticism of the decision to bring Flanagan back should be directed at him rather than Barrett.

“It’s my responsibility for how Kyle has been prepared for this season and when he comes back into the NRL,” he said on his Six Tackles with Gus podcast.

“Not Trent Barrett, not the Bulldogs. That’s me. If (the club’s critics) want to come at me with duty of care and coaching and development of players — and I’ve developed a few players in my career — then I’m happy to debate them anywhere, anytime.

“But this vitriolic and vehement attack on our coach and on the club, it won’t be tolerated. If they want to come at anyone, come at me.

Barrett, speaking for the first time on the situation, backed Gould’s intervention.

“Gus is the GM here and we discuss a lot of things,” he said. “It was good of him to come out and say what he said. We work closely together.

“We had a plan from the get-go. I think it’s worked and I think Kyle’s performances in NSW Cup have helped him, relaxed him a little bit and he’s playing well.

“They’re the only factors that really came into it. When we thought he was ready, we were both of the opinion that it was time to bring him back in. It’ll be good to see him play.”

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