But there is an intensity to Flanagan that can’t be ignored. At Cronulla, it helped him turn a team of perennial underachievers into a pack of wolves that strangled everything in their way to win a maiden premiership seven years ago.
“I have to design a program which suits the type of athletes that we’ve got,” he said.
“At the Sharks, we were tough. Paul Gallen was a ruthless, tough, warrior. I don’t have that player in my team, so I have to design a program that suits us. We will out-compete teams. I want to be fitter, faster and stronger. I expect to play semi-finals next year. People outside this room will think I’m crazy but it is achievable.”
The key messages from the morning were about club unity, connection and leadership – and the obvious lack thereof within the playing ranks at the club.
Enter Mark Taylor, the former Australian Test cricket captain who was invited to talk at the breakfast. He, along with Coyne, will be pivotal in Flanagan’s development of leadership at the club.
“They will be coming to lunches with the players, even though Tubby doesn’t know it yet,” Flanagan said. “Not too many people are born with leadership. You have to be exposed to it. I’ve learnt over a period of time that leadership is so hard. The best players aren’t your best leaders. You have to educate people on how to be their best leaders.
“I might have to recruit some leaders. It’s an important area of our game, as much as our kick-chase, goal-kicking. Leadership is an important part of our program next year.”
While he didn’t know it at the time when Flanagan announced it on stage, Taylor is keen to work with the club’s senior players.
“As a Dragons man, you just want to see them do better,” Taylor told the Herald.
“There’s no doubt they can do better. I was happy to lend my support. I’ve spoken to Shane a couple of times on the phone the past couple of weeks, but I only met him for the first time today. I liked it. He had an honest and open conversation. That’s what they need.
“If he wants me to be involved and chat to the leaders, I would love to be involved. I would love to see them playing well. I don’t think they are as far away from that as some people think. I’d love to be part of helping them get there.”
Much of the talk in the room before the formalities began centred around the actions of skipper Ben Hunt. Flanagan danced around the issue when host Lara Pitt asked him about the future of the No.7, who has repeatedly stated his desire to leave the club to return home to Queensland.
But when questions were opened to the floor, a potential sponsor didn’t hold back with his views on the matter.
The prospective Dragons commercial partner said he would rather the coach give an opportunity to a young player who cared about the club than continue to support Hunt.
Flanagan’s forthright response – which this masthead has chosen not to publish to respect the confidentiality requested by the club for access to the inner sanctum – highlighted to those in the room why the Dragons have placed so much faith in him to bring success back to the club.
It’s nothing Flanagan wouldn’t have said to Hunt himself.
Flanagan, though, is candid in his views around the roster. Even while being interviewed on stage, his phone ran hot. “Sorry, that’s a player manager,” he said.
It was a representative from Crown Sports Management, the agency that looks after some of the biggest names in the game.
Flanagan admits he wants to bolster the forward pack and concedes a hooker would be a handy addition to the team, before explaining the club’s healthy salary cap position.
“The talent is there,” he said. “I’d love to get one or two high-quality players for next year. There aren’t a lot of quality players on the market. We are in a good position, cap-wise.
“I look through our cap and there might be some players who are paid some overs, but there are some who are on unders. I’m pretty happy if we can attract the players. I’ve tried to sell the club [in] the past month. We are a high-profile club.”
Just moments before Flanagan took to the stage, St George Illawarra chairman Andrew Lancaster declared the club was no longer a joint venture.
He revealed all references to the club being a joint venture were recently removed from the agreement signed upon the amalgamation of St George and Illawarra almost a quarter of a century ago.
Only one man in that time has managed to unite the two factions. That was Wayne Bennett. The banners at Kogarah and Wollongong will soon tell you whether Flanagan can be the second.
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