Crusader Corey Flynn reflects on Southland past

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2014
Corey Flynn
Fairfax NZ
BACK IN THE DAY: Corey Flynn in the Southland jersey in 2002.

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Tonight Corey Flynn will bring up game No 150 for the Crusaders when his team takes on the Sharks in the Super Rugby playoff game in Christchurch. Logan Savory caught up with the veteran hooker and talked to him about his journey from being a Southland kid to a Crusaders legend.

As an 18-year-old in his first year out of school, Corey Flynn didn't think it could get much better than when he got his hands on Southland club rugby's biggest prize - the Galbraith Shield.

He had grown up watching his father Shaun pull on the blue-and-white-hooped jersey and wanted to follow in his footsteps.

To help his local club win the Galbraith Shield in 1999, for the first time since 1986, and to do it with his dad as the coach, was something he cherishes to this day.

"We were just out of high school, after playing first XV, and then we played our first year seniors and won the Galbraith Shield for Star for the first time in quite a while. We did it with guys like Daryl Batchelor, Glenn Morrison, Richard Bekhuis - guys I'd been watching for a long time as a young fella. That was pretty cool.

"I always think about things at home in Invercargill. It is still very much a piece of me, and Star losing that semifinal the other day didn't sit well with me; I always have regarded it my home club," he said

The reality is, though, while he still regards that glory at grassroots level in Southland as one of his highlights, it was the small beginnings in Flynn's impressive rugby career.

It is a career that has included playing for the All Blacks and winning Super Rugby titles in a 13-year stint with the Crusaders.

He stresses Southland still remains a big part of him but he also conceded the angst in 2002 over his decision to leave his home province and sign with Canterbury did effect him.

He was a 21-year-old who had been handed the reins as captain of the Stags but, at the end of the 2002 season, he decided a move to Canterbury was best for him.

As the sun sets on his stellar career in New Zealand this year, it is hard to argue that it wasn't the right decision.

Flynn recalls that at the time the way it played out publicly was very tough, and many people in Southland had a view on it and didn't mind expressing it.

"At that time it was pretty tough. There were a lot of things said about me in the media and stuff like that. It was tough because it was a bloody hard decision. There were a lot of people I had to talk to, in terms of family and people I trusted, and we decided to come to Canterbury. 

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"It's the old saying, when you make a decision, just run with it. That's what I've done and I haven't looked back too much.

"I was told by a guy I learned a lot from, Robbie Deans ... 'the people that trust you most don't care what you do, they will support you and follow you where ever you go'. I think that was a huge thing for me to be able to make a fully informed decision."

Flynn will line up in his 150th game for the Crusaders tonight in the Super Rugby playoff game against the Sharks in Christchurch.

For the former Southland Boys' High School pupil, it could be his last in the red-and-black jersey if the Crusaders were to lose. If the Crusaders win, and if the Waratahs win, it will be his last game in Christchurch in front of his home crowd. His team would eye a Super Rugby final in Sydney.

The 33-year-old said it had prompted a touch of reflection.

"I suppose its all starting to sink in now, with the 150 games and possibly being the last game at home. But it's been a great old ride and everything comes to an end at some stage. I'm just trying to enjoy it now and there will be a time for reflection later."

He will head to Toulouse, in France, to play at the end of the Super Rugby season. It is a two-year contract but Flynn said he is not stating it will be his last contract.

"The body feels good, and the mind feels great so, hopefully, I'll get another couple of years after that. That will take me until I'm 37 and then who knows. Never say never," he said.

"[Jason Rutledge] and Brad Thorn are my inspiration - if they can do it, it means my days are not done."

- The Southland Times

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