The decision by coach Trent Barrett to bring much-maligned Bulldogs halfback Kyle Flanagan up from reserve grade seemingly squashed all chatter about his looming departure, for now.
However, with the decision came a bombshell admission - Barrett had to go to club boss Gus Gould for permission for the call-up.
The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, who are 1-3 to start the season, had one glaring hole in their bolstered lineup heading into 2022 - the halfback spot.
No one questioned the ability of the newcomer and five-eighth Matt Burton, who's shown he's been worth the price tag amidst a disappointing start for the club, but many wondered how the team would fare without a stable and mature head at number seven.
The proof has been in the pudding, as the Bulldogs have looked lost at times during the first few games.
Coach Trent Barrett began the season with dynamic playmaker Jake Averillo at the leading spot, however, it was clear the youngster's playstyle didn't compliment Burton. After just two games, Barrett had decided to promote Brandon Wakeham, who was Kyle Flanagan's halves partner in the Bulldogs Knock on Effect NSW Cup.
After a tough loss against the Manly Sea Eagles in Round 3 and a 44-0 belting by the Storm in Round 4, Barrett had announced Flanagan would finely get an opportunity to prove himself as the permanent Robin to Burton's Batman.
But the controversy surrounding this halfback carousel doesn't end there. Questions have now been raised around who's actually making the decisions in the dog pack after Gould admitted Barrett came to him prior to the call.
“It’s not Trent Barrett who has made a decision on when he comes back to first grade,” Gould told WWOS.
“Trent wanted him in the side, but he came and asked me for permission to do it. I could have easily said no if I didn’t think he was ready. I said yes.”
This admission has brought the entire system under scrutiny, as it was also revealed Gould had been dictating Flanagan's position within the organisation for a while.
“I said at the moment, ‘I don’t think the NRL is the place for you, I don’t think you can help the team and you can’t help them at the moment. But we need to reset your career and that could mean some time in reserve grade’,” Gould said.
Speaking with Big Sports Breakfast radio on Friday, SMH journalist Adam Pengilly voiced his concerns over the two's roles within the Bulldogs organisation.
“I applaud Trent Barrett for making the call but the comments from Phil Gould... now they were interesting,” Pengilly said.
“For him to come out and say I’ve been handling Kyle Flanagan this whole pre-season and I’ll determine when he comes back to first grade, Trent Barrett almost seems like he’s call Gus to ask permission to pick Kyle Flanagan.
“Now for me, the question has got to be asked, who is actually running this team?”.
NRL great Laurie Daley offered some insight into the complicated decision-making system, rebutting by saying, "I think it was a double play by Gus, I think it’s Gus taking the pressure off Trent."
“I’ve got no doubt that Gus would be looking at Kyle Flanagan and Trent would be stupid not to utilise him and (Gould’s) ability to be able to tell when a player is ready.
“I think in the off-season they would have discussed what was the best way forward for Kyle and Baz probably said ‘I don’t think he’s ready to play’ and Gus would have said well I’ll have a look at him, I’ll watch him, I’ll talk to him and help develop him along with what you guys do on the field and when we think he’s ready to play I’ll let you know.
“I think that’s how it has unfolded and I reckon Trent would be stupid not to take the advice of Gus."
Regardless of how it happened, Barrett, Flanagan, and the rest of the Bulldog's squad will be tested this Sunday night as they play host to the reigning Premiers, the Penrith Panthers.