Shane Flanagan’s aim as incoming St George Illawarra Dragons coach is simple – to return the club to how he remembers it, as one of the most powerful in the NRL.
Flanagan last coached an NRL game back in 2018, and he’s excited about returning to do what he loves as a coach.
“I’m back doing what I want to do and enjoy doing. It’s busy, but it’s something I love,” he said.
Growing up in southern Sydney, Flanagan remembers a time when he’d be attending matches with his dad on the hill at Kogarah and the Dragons were a powerhouse club, regularly playing in grand finals.
By his mid-teens he was playing his junior rep footy with the club. Playing for the Dragons was a big stepping stone but now returning as head coach, his aim is to return the club to where he thinks it should be.
“I want to bring the club back to what I remember: one of the most powerful in the NRL,” he said.
One of the first things Flanagan has done on his return is launch “The Dragons’ Way”.
“The Dragons’ Way is how we do things and what we don’t do,” he said.
“It’s the way we behave at training, the way we treat each other, our systems and processes on the field.
“Hopefully that rubs off on our administration, sponsors, our supporters.
“We’re a big strong club and we need to be respectful and train hard.”
Flanagan plans to have former players around the club and at training.
“From a leadership perspective, I think we’ve got some outstanding leaders that have led this club in the past – Craig Young, Mark Coyne and Paul McGregor [the first captains to lead St George Illawarra in 1999] Mick Beattie, Brian Johnston.”
These are the types of former leaders Flanagan wants to have involved in the club, but he’s also opened the door for all former players, making them feel proud about what they’re trying to achieve.
“Anyone who put the jersey on, I want to make them feel welcome,” he said.
Media coverage of rugby league is a constant these days for coaches, players and the clubs and often it’s more about what happens off the field than on it.
Flanagan believes the past three years working as part of the media through his radio and TV commitments has helped him with some additional experience.
“I think it’s given me 10 years of extra experience, meeting people and getting some relationships in the media,” he said.
“I’m not saying it’s going to help; they’re still going to write some negative stories or do what they need to do, but I’ve more of an understanding of the way that all that works.
“I think it’s going to help me and hopefully help the club.”
Away from the game he loves, Flanagan enjoys time with his family.
“I’ve got three grandchildren [little babies – two boys and a girl], so they keep me busy,” he said.
“I like to do some stuff with them if I can on days off, go and play with them, take them out.
“I can then hand them back when I’ve had enough!”
Region asked Flanagan for a couple of words that he thought his players would use to describe him.
“I’d like to think hard but fair. I’ve learnt that there’s no short cuts in the NRL. You need to be tough, you need to be a hard man,” he said.
“We’re going to train hard, but we’ll be smart in the way we train.
“Those that put in for me and do the job, I’ll be nice and fair and look after them.”
The Dragons begin their 2024 campaign with the annual Charity Shield clash against South Sydney at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Kogarah on Saturday 17 February.