BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 27: Kyle Flanagan of the Bulldogs looks to pass during the round three NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium on March 27, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Former Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has come out in defence of the Bulldogs as criticism swirls around son Kyle's return to the first grade side.

Kyle Flanagan, who has played the last month in the reserve grade, will return to the side for this weekend's clash against Penrith, with some labelling the decision from the Bulldogs equivalent to throwing the 23-year-old to the wolves.

Flanagan hasn't featured in the first grade side since August, but father Shane has denied that the young halfback isn't ready to perform against the reigning premiers.

“It’s been a tough week; we don’t want this and Kyle definitely doesn’t need it,” Shane said on 2GB.

“Kyle couldn’t care who he plays against this week, he just wants to get back into first grade. It just happens to be against Penrith Panthers, but so what in Kyle’s mind.

“He just wants to get out and play first grade. At some point during the year, hopefully he goes out and plays against every footy team. I can understand some people’s perception about him being thrown in against Penrith, but if it’s time for him to play, it’s time for him to play.

“There’s a few things I’d like to say: Gus came out and said that he’s been dealing with Kyle, and that is 100 per cent correct.

“I met with Gus last year and he said, ‘We need to reset him, we need to get him started again, he had a tough year last year and was playing in a side getting a lot of points put on them’.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 09: Sharks coach Shane Flanagan speaks at the post match media conference at the end of during the round one NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Cronulla Sharks at 1300SMILES Stadium on March 9, 2018 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

“He’s changed his game, he’s changed the way he is playing, so he needed to go back to NSW Cup and enjoy himself.

“Gus said he’d work really hard, work on a few things and once he got them right he’d be back in first grade. To his credit, he stuck to his word and has been working with Kyle.

“Trent said exactly the same thing, that he’d go back for a month or so – he left it a bit open – and be back in first grade. To his word, he is back in first grade.

“The club behind the scenes have supported him, they haven’t thrown him to the wolves. There’s been a bit of a plan and he’s a first-grader. He’s back playing tomorrow and I’m sure he will do well.

“Whether the Bulldogs win or not, I’m not sure. But he will be out there doing his best. He has played 30 or 40 first-grade games and hopefully he plays another 150 to 200.

“It’s strange for me to see all the drama around it this week. It was a bit disappointing, but for Kyle [it’s] a distraction for him coming back to play first grade. It should have been a positive story.”

Flanagan has made 42 appearances since his debut in 2018, 13 of those at the Bulldogs. The 23-year-old failed to lock down a spot at the Sharks and Roosters in the early stages of his career, but has now been given the opportunity to find a place in the Bulldogs side.

“To answer your question about ‘has he been told if he’s back for three, five, 10 [weeks] or the rest of the season’, no he hasn’t." Flanagan added.

“He’s got to go out and play good footy week after week.

“Obviously he’s going to get a couple of weeks to get the combination right and they won’t keep changing their halves, but no one is guaranteed a week-to-week position, especially in that Bulldogs side.”