Final fling nears for Crusaders No 2 Corey Flynn

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2014
Corey Flynn
IAIN MCGREGOR/Fairfax NZ

GETTING READY: Corey Flynn, who leaves for French club Toulouse after the Super Rugby season, hopes to collect his fourth title before he departs Christchurch.

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Tonight Corey Flynn plays his 150th Super Rugby match for the Crusaders. RICHARD KNOWLER speaks to the hooker as he prepares to notch up the rare milestone.

Corey Flynn concedes there's nothing like a jolt of electricity to help determine a career path.

Things are trucking along pretty nicely for the 33-year-old these days but if he wasn't a professional rugby player he isn't certain what occupation he would have chosen after leaving Southland Boys' High School.

Well, he is sure about one thing: He wasn't going to work in an industry where he risked getting zapped from bare wires.

"I was looking at an electrical apprenticeship but that wasn't my forte," Flynn reflects. "Electricity scares the hell out of me because you can't see it and I took a couple of boots.

"Who knows what I would have done, mate, who knows. I am just thankful I am here. There were times when it [rugby] was a bit dicey and there were times I took it for granted but now it's just love it for every day."

Genetics and a determination to make it as a professional rugby player - he gives his parents credit for kicking him off the couch and into his running shoes in the early days - have afforded a lifestyle he couldn't have envisaged as a school boy.

After 12 years as a professional rugby player, Flynn has invested in a couple of bars in Hanmer Springs, won a World Cup medal, been involved in three successful Super Rugby campaigns and will soon take his family to France where he will play for Toulouse.

Pro footy means there was no risk of getting electric shocks but it still came at a price.

The scars on both forearms are testament to the operations he had after suffering multiple bone breaks during his career and then there have been the leg injuries, facial cuts, neck strains and torn muscles to take into consideration.

Enduring long and boring rehabilitation stretches, snubs from national selectors and deciding whether or not to stay in New Zealand when lucrative offers from overseas clubs landed in his inbox must have caused anxiety.

Although he earned 15 test caps between 2003 and 2011 Flynn never locked down a regular starting spot for the All Blacks and despite his compelling performances since the last World Cup, current coach Steve Hansen never gave him a look-in.

Upon his arrival at the Crusaders, Flynn had to serve his apprenticeship under incumbent rake Mark Hammett and then accept challenges from the likes of Tone Kopelani, Ti'i Paulo and Ben Funnell for the No 2 jersey.

When Flynn moved from Southland in late 2002 he naively thought fellow Southlander Justin Marshall would be one of the first to greet him. Marshall didn't speak to him for six months.

"As time went on we rubbed shoulders a little bit more," Flynn laughed.

Hammett, though, proved to be a mighty bloke.

"Hammer was instrumental. Coming from Southland where I was told to learn by getting a hiding, I then came into the Crusaders environments where it was give, give, give.

"Hammer knew I was here to take his spot and if I could have a crack I would. But he was more than happy to give me what I needed."

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When Flynn leaves for France the Crusaders will lose one of the few remaining players who were involved in an era when a belly of booze was part of the post-match recovery session.

That's all changed. Back when Flynn started there were just 12 teams and those teams that didn't make the Super Rugby finals were done by early May. Now, with 15 teams and an extended finals format, it can drag through to early August.

He might have had some rough edges but he maintains he was no different than any other young man in his early years.

"I wouldn't say I was a ratbag, I was just a young 21-year-old and it took a while to mould into a professional athlete.

"Nowadays these guys are coming out of high school and they are professional athletes. I was in the infancy of pro rugby. It's been a huge culture change. I suppose I was lucky enough to live through the old days and enjoy the new era as well.

Hitting 150 appearances far outstrips the 129 reached by Reuben Thorne who retired from the Crusaders in 2008. Flynn hopes a win over the Sharks tonight will stretch that milestone to 151.

He says he is not the sentimental type, even if it means missing out on rooming with team-mates like Wyatt Crockett, who he describes as the best and worst player to share a room with on tour.

"He's the best because he's a hell of a nice guy. If he's making a cup of tea he will [make you one] and understands that because he is further ahead of me in the bus he has to do that.

"And he's the worst because he's a horrible snorer and you can be up to 2am before you get some shut-eye."

- The Press

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