18 June, 2024
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Kyle Flanagan can be perfect foil for Ben Hunt: Dragons


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St George Illawarra coach Shane Flanagan is hoping the arrival of his son Kyle at the Dragons will allow Ben Hunt to rediscover his damaging running game. 

At times in recent seasons it has felt like Hunt has shouldered sole responsibility for the Dragons’ fortunes and, as Flanagan pointed out after an opposed session against Manly on Friday, the Queenslander has often had to do that while holding the hand of an inexperienced five-eighth.

But with the arrival of Kyle Flanagan from Canterbury, Hunt can expect the chance to play with more freedom.

The 25-year-old Flanagan has had his detractors during his first-grade career, but there is little doubt his kicking and game awareness can help Hunt unleash his natural running game. 

 New arrival Kyle Flanagan adds some experience at five-eighth for the Dragons. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

“Ben’s enjoyed his time with Kyle because it’s taken a lot of pressure off him,” Flanagan senior said. 

“Ben’s played with young halves before and they’ve only played 20 games. Kyle’s up around 80 (games) and his strength is his organisation.

“He’s taken a lot of pressure off Ben because on the last tackle, big plays, the ball isn’t always going to go to Ben.

“That’s freed Ben up to run a little bit more and (he’s) enjoying that.”

Coach Flanagan understands why supporters may have been left a little underwhelmed by the club’s recruitment during his first full off-season at the helm.

As well as Kyle Flanagan, the Dragons have added experienced, if low-profile, first-grade forwards in the shape of Hame Sele, Tom Eisenhuth and Ray Faitala-Mariner.

“We’re going to be a side that is hard to beat and we’re going to try not to beat ourselves,” Flanagan senior said. 

“We’ll be in there fighting right to the end, but have a look at the sides I coached at the Sharks – we’re going to scrap and fight and kick right to the end. 

“We’ll win games on the back of that.”

 Savelio Tamale is tipped as a breakout star for St George Illawarra in 2024. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

The Dragons coach singled out young centre Savelio Tamale as a potential breakout star of 2024.

Tamale is likely to have to wait his turn behind Jack Bird, Zac Lomax and Moses Suli, but Flanagan is expecting the off-contract centre to make a name for himself. 

“(Tamale) will play a lot of first grade this year … I’ve not pencilled anyone in,” Flanagan said. 

“Birdy’s best position, for me, is centre, so Jack is going to have to fight for that jersey for round one.”

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