When Tom Flegler feels like he's about to lose his cool in the heat of battle, he channels the sage advice of Broncos coach Kevin Walters – 'be a blue head, not a red head'.
Set to cap off his stellar season with a Test debut in Saturday’s Pacific Championships clash against the Kiwis, the 24-year-old credits Walters with helping his transformation from loose cannon to gun prop, from easily riled to reliable.
Earning a reputation as a hothead early in his career, the Tully Tigers junior was walking a tightrope after copping six weeks' worth of suspensions in 2021.
When his Gallagher Kangaroos campaign comes to an end and it's time to depart Red Hill to join another wise man of coaching at the Dolphins in 2024, Flegler said Walters' advice will stay with him.
“This year Kevvie always said to me, 'you need to be a blue headed Fleg, not a red headed Fleg', so I tried to be a lot calmer,” Flegler said in Kangaroos camp.
“I’ve almost played 100 games now so it took me a few seasons to mature as a front-rower in the game but I’m not as aggressive anymore and I spent more time on the field this year which was good.
“It's no good for the team if you're on the sideline. It takes you a few games to realise that and all the good props in the game, their maturity kicks in once they hit a certain age and I feel like I'm heading in that direction.”
Breakout seasons don’t come much bigger than Flegler’s 2023, consisting of an Origin series victory, captaining the Broncos in Round 27, an NRL grand final and now a Kangaroos debut.
“It’s obviously been a dream come true and it has been a massive year,” he said.
“I started off the year and we were playing well for Broncs and the way the season's turned out, well I don't even know how to put it into words at the moment.
“I guess in the moment you don't really have time to stop and think about it but I’m really happy with what's happened and the season's not over yet.
"I’ve got this weekend to go and hopefully we can go out there and get the win against the Kiwis.”
Flegler said he will still call himself a Bronco until the end of the Pacific Championships but when he returns home to link with Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins for pre-season, the reality of his move will sink in.
“It was a hard decision, especially after coming through with that core group of boys who have been at the Broncos since under 20s and we're all very good mates,” he said.
Thomas Flegler bursts through
“But at the end of the day we've got to grow up and make decisions that sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone to do.
“I'm only young, it's only my first year in the NRL where I've made a bit of an impact on a team and hopefully I can keep improving on that in the years to come.
“I don't think it'll sink in yet until I go to Redcliffe and start training that I’ll realise I'm not in the same environment and not around the same people that I have been for the last six years.”
As he prepared to join a proud honour roll of Broncos alumni to play for Australia, Flegler was adamant he wouldn't be donning the green and gold had it not been for Walters' guidance.
“I've had Kevvie as a coach for two years now and he still believed in me this year and gave me every opportunity that came my way and, even when I saw with another club,” he said.
"I can’t thank the Broncos enough for what they've done throughout my career and without them, I don't think I'd be where I am today.”
Match: Kangaroos v Kiwis
Week 3 -
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne