While devastated to be leaving the club he has always called home, Kyle Flanagan is confident his decision to join the Sydney Roosters is one he had to make if he wants to leave a mark in the NRL.
The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks announced early last week that Flanagan would be departing at season's end to join the Roosters on a two-year deal.
He has impressed in his six starting appearances in first-grade this season, setting up five tries and forming a strong combination with Chad Townsend in the absence of an injured Shaun Johnson.
Despite being just 20 years old, Flanagan understands that he can’t simply wait around for more opportunities behind two elite halves.
“It’s all opportunity obviously” he said to NSWRL.com.au
“I want to play firsts and feel like I’m ready to play first grade every week.
“Chaddy [Chad Townsend] and Shaun Johnson are obviously there – Chad’s won a premiership and SJ is an international.
“It’s a massive opportunity at the Roosters so I couldn’t say no.”
While the decision was his, he said his father and former Sharks coach, Shane Flanagan, offered him valuable advice but had trust that Flanagan would make the right decision on his own.
“It was just my decision and my old man’s,” he clarified.
“It’s always been up to me – he always just says to do what’s best for yourself.
“At the end of the day I want an opportunity to prove myself and make my own name in the NRL and I haven’t done that yet.”
The decision wasn’t that straightforward though, with Flanagan revealed he struggled with the idea of leaving behind his teammates, some of which he had been playing with for over 10 years.
“I never thought I’d leave the club, I wanted to be a leader,” Flanagan openly admitted.
“It’s obviously disappointing because I’ve got some of my best mates down here.
“Bronson Xerri is my best mate, I never thought I would leave him to be honest.
“Blayke Brailey, Billy Magoulias, I could go through the whole team.”
Both Xerri and Brailey were teammates of Flanagan’s from the start of his rugby league journey at the Aquinas Colts.
In fact, Brailey and Flanagan won 10 consecutive premierships at their junior club from under-8s through to under-17s.
All three went on to progress through the Cronulla junior pathways and represented their state in the Under-20s Origin together in 2018.
And it all reached a full circle in Round 4 earlier this year against the Parramatta Eels, when the trio finally ran out together for the first time in the NRL.
It was an agonising process for Flanagan, who had to sacrifice the chance to continue playing with life-long friends and instead focus on his own game.
It demanded a great level of maturity from the youngster, who believes he has grown as a person and player during the process.
“Obviously it’s a long process doing that sort of stuff,” he explained.
“But I think it has helped me mature and obviously that’s what you need out of a halfback these days.”
While confessing that other clubs showed interest in his services, Flanagan said that the chance to play with some of the game’s most exciting players convinced him that the Roosters were the right fit.
“The Roosters are a champion team and the opportunity to play alongside [James] Tedesco and [Luke] Keary is unbelievable,” he says.
“I’m going to train hard in the pre-season over there, I can’t wait.”