What makes winning Crusaders franchise tick?

PETER FULTON
Last updated 05:00 06/07/2013
Corey Flynn and Peter Fulton
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ

Corey Flynn (right) of the Crusaders talks to New Zealand cricketer Peter Fulton.

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What makes the Crusaders franchise so good? What do the players really think of the media? Does playing virtually every game of every season as red hot favourite start to wear you down?

These are some of the questions I have often pondered myself and so who better to ask than a man who has just become the most capped Crusader of all time, Corey Flynn.

I would agree with one of the oldest adages in sport that you don't need to like your teammates in order to be a successful team. But it certainly helps.

In the case of the Crusaders, watching one training session is all it takes to confirm how well this group gets on with each other.

A steady stream of encouragement and good-natured banter flowed throughout the whole practice and so when Flynn says "it's all about wanting to play well and do the best you can for your mate on either side of you", I tend to believe him.

Israel Dagg, in particular, was not showing any signs of being unhappy in the Crusaders camp (if you believe some reports in the last week), as he was the most enthusiastic and boisterous member of the group. 

This probably proves that any sportsperson is at their happiest when they are out on the field training or playing and can be free of all the distractions and commitments that come with being a professional athlete.

Flynn says players like Justin Marshall, Andrew Mehrtens, Todd Blackadder and Reuben Thorne helped breed an attitude amongst the players of expecting, rather than merely hoping to win, which the current players strive to attain.

That attitude soon spread to the supporters in the Crusaders region and that has resulted in an expectation now from both the public and the media that anything less than a title is not good enough.

Flynn sees this as a double-edged sword.

"It does get tough because the reality is you can't win every game but I think that brings the best of you too because you get a sense of, not arrogance, but that you should be winning and when you don't it is hard. At the end of the day the Crusaders public are used to winning and they demand success."

As someone who has to deal with public scrutiny as a cricket player I also wanted to ask Flynn his views on the media, considering he plays the highest profile sport in New Zealand and that discussing the merits, or otherwise, of our rugby players is a favourite past time.

"There are reporters who you know are just trying to have a dig at you so you quickly learn who you can and can't trust. In saying that there are a lot of good reporters who know that the sport needs the media as much as the media needs the sport and I will give my time freely to them. But you do need a pretty thick skin, as you would know."

Injuries are probably the worst part of being a professional sportsman and no-one knows this better than Flynn. In his early days he admits he was a little bit mentally fragile with regard to injuries but Flynn says as he got older he has learned to deal with them better.

"When I started I used to sulk for 2-3 weeks but now I can get over it a lot quicker and get into the rehab straight away. It is tough because, as I tell the young guys, when you are young it's just rip, shit and bust and when rugby is taken away from you it feels like your whole world is caving in but in reality it is quite a small period of time in the context of your whole career."

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It's probably not surprising then, considering all the bad luck he has suffered, that Flynn looks a little wary when I bring up the subject of passing Reuben Thorne as the most capped Crusader of all time.

"I have tried not to think about it too much to be honest just because of superstition and not wanting to jinx it, but Rueben is a Crusaders legend so to sit back one day with a cold beer and be mentioned alongside a bloke like him in terms of appearances would be great."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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