Sharks Media caught up with Head Coach Shane Flanagan in his last interview for 2017, just a day before the team was due to take a break for the Christmas and New Year period.
In the following Q and A, Flanagan opened up about how the pre-season has gone so far, the new recruits and how they are fitting in, while looking at the progress of the young guns, included amongst them his own son Kyle.
He goes on to talk about the World Cup boys, their return to training post-Christmas and the array of backline talent he has at his disposal for the 2018 season.
Flanagan is extremely positive about the prospects for 2018, and understandably so.
See below the Flanagan’s last word for 2017, ahead of what promises to be an exciting season ahead.
Sharks Media: How has the pre-season been so far?
Shane Flanagan: I’m happy where we are. They’ve trained hard, we haven’t missed too many opportunities to train and a lot of the players have been on the field week in, week out. They’ve been really productive.
“They now deserve a break and I’m looking forward to giving them one over the next week or so.
SM: It’s been a warm summer. What sort of impact has that had on what you’ve been able to do?
Flanagan: “Overall, with us training in the morning it hasn’t hampered what we wanted to do. It’s always good to train this time of year, the boys get together and go for a swim afterwards. They’ve enjoyed it.”
SM: The Sharks have welcomed a handful of new players into the club this year. How have they managed to fit in? Let’s start with Matt Moylan.
Flanagan: “He’s been excellent. He started a bit slow because he had some off-season knee surgery but he’s come back now and he’s in full training.
“I’m really excited about what he’s going to add to our footy team. Offensively he’s sharp and we all know he can play a couple of positions. I’m super excited about what I’ve seen on the training paddock.”
SM: Another couple of the new boys are two of the big boppers in Ava Seumanufagai and Braden Uele.
Flanagan: Ava has been really good. He hadn’t done a lot of the training that we’ve do so it’s all new to him. He hasn’t done a lot of leg work in the gym (previously) so I think we’re going to see some real benefits from that. He’s going to be big and strong at the line.
Braden has looked sharp. He’s lost a bit of weight, worked really hard in the gym and he’s got sharp feet.
We need both those front rowers to stand up this year and I’m confident they will.
SM: It would be tough for you to talk too much about him, however your son Kyle Flanagan has added some size during the off-season and has looked good training with the NRL squad.
Flanagan: “I think he’s 88kgs now and six foot tall, he’s fit in well. He had a bit of a taste of first grade training last year and I’m excited as a coach and as his father about what he’s going to do this year.
“He’ll get a crack at it at some stage and to get named in that squad (Emerging Blues) is a reward for what he did last year. He scored a heap of points, had a really good season (in the Holden Cup). Him, and some others, will have a good crack at it next year.”
SM: The World Cup boys have been given an extended break. You must be keen to get them back and what sort of shape are you expecting them to be in?
Flanagan: “They’re not here, but they are training and doing a bit away from here. They deserve some time off. The World Cup was a whole month, if not longer for some of the teams, and just being in the football environment, having to focus on your training, living in hotels, it’s tough. They need that mental break more than the physical break.
“I know Val (Holmes) is going to Japan, probably to do a bit of skiing, (Josh) Dugan is off fishing and Andrew (Fifita) is recovering from ankle surgery.
“I’m looking forward to all the boys coming back and throw those players into the current mix, the way we’ve been training, and its exciting times for the Sharks.”
SM: Talking of Valentine and Josh Dugan, along with Moylan who has joined the team this year, and there is an array of backline talent for you to work with next season.
Flanagan: “We’ve also got Ricky Leutele, (Sosaia) Feki, Sione Katoa is going to be hard to hold out of that first game, Jesse Ramien had a crack last year. We’ve got some exciting outside backs who can score some points.
“That’s an area we identified that we were down on from 2016. We scored 30 less tries so we’ve got to find 30 tries and defend the same. If we can do that we’ll be up there again and we’ve definitely got the talent to do it.”
SM: You must be ready for a break as much as the players are, then it’s on again for 2018.
Flanagan: “I’ll get away, go up to Coolangatta for a week with the family and friends, then I’m looking forward to 2018.
“We’ll have a really good football team, I look forward to seeing Southern Cross Group Stadium packed like it was in 2016 and we can start to build some momentum. We’re going to give it a real crack in ’18 and I can’t wait for the start of it.”