Flynn Purkis may soon realise his childhood dream of playing rugby league alongside his dad after overcoming tragedy, losing his mum and sister in a car crash.
Regardless of how he fares on the field, next season is shaping up to be a memorable one for the Wests Panthers player.
Flynn and his father Mick plan to line up alongside each other in the Panthers’ reserve grade outfit for the 2021 Bundaberg Rugby League season and it will mark a career highlight for both if they are able to achieve the feat.
Flynn, who has made himself available for selection in all three senior grades for the Panthers next season, said playing alongside Mick would realise a childhood dream.
“I always wanted to play footy with him, ever since I was a little kid watching old tapes of him playing in the old days,” the 17-year-old prop forward said of his father.
“Even if it’s just one game, it means a lot. Not many fathers and sons get to play footy together, so it will be good.”
Flynn will count on Mick, aged 47, to stay injury free after the latter’s comeback seasons in 2006 and 2017, following his initial retirement in 2000, both ended with season-ending injuries.
If the pair’s on-field combination proves as effective as their ability to work together off the field, their opponents face a tough time stopping them.
Flynn’s sister Emerson and mother Leisa were tragically killed in a car accident, in which Flynn was also a passenger, a little over two years ago in South Kolan and he and Mick have been there for each other since.
“We’re still looking after each other, making sure we’re all good and just chugging along,” Flynn said.
“We’re just living life to the fullest. You can’t just talk about the sad times, you’ve got to talk about the good times as well, because (Emerson and Leisa) come up in conversation all the time.”
Flynn said his sister and mother were a constant source of inspiration for him as he chases success on the rugby league field and his approaching Year 12 studies at Shalom College.
“A lot of the things that I want to do well in are driven by them,” he said.
“If I want to do well in school, in an exam or an assignment, I think ‘how would they react?’.
“Especially Mum, because she was big on education, and so’s Dad. And on the footy field, I dedicate every game to them.”
Flynn admitted his approach to schoolwork had changed as his view of the world outside the rugby league field matures.
“When I was younger, I was like ‘footy, footy, footy’ and schoolwork came later,” he said.
“Now I do what I need to do at training and then come home and study. School’s been a lot better since I’ve started balancing (priorities) out a bit.”
Flynn will start a school-based cabinet-making apprenticeship in 2021 and realises he will need to devote much of his time to that and his other schoolwork, but has not ruled out the possibility of finding a start in the world of professional rugby league.
“I was hell-bent on (becoming professional) a couple of years ago but then I realised, as I got older, that footy shouldn’t be the priority,” he said.
“I started looking at other pathways. But if something pops up, I will take the opportunity with both hands.”
Whatever he achieves in life, Flynn knows that rugby league will be a large part of it and he is grateful for the support he and his father received from the rugby league community in the aftermath of his family heartbreak.
“They helped out a lot when everything happened,” Flynn said. “Just the way they got around us and showed their support, which is amazing.
“Wests is a very family-oriented club. They’re not the richest or the biggest but they’re definitely family-oriented and so are Shalom.
“It was good to have all that support when everything did happen.”
In addition to lining up alongside Mick in reserve grade in 2021, another major goal for Flynn is the helping steer the Panthers’ under-18 outfit to successive BRL premierships.
The Panthers took last year’s title with a gripping 22-18 grand final win over Maryborough’s Wallaroos in Maryborough, and the front-rower believes Wests have the necessary talent to repeat the success in 2021.
“Most of (this year’s) team is either too old for the 18s this year or have moved elsewhere, but the 16s Grizzlies side won the grand final this year as well, so we’ve got a lot of grand final experience coming through,” he said.
“A lot of big game experience and a lot of representative players, and they’re all talented.
“Even the kids that haven’t made rep, they’re very talented in their positions, so we’re looking very good for the 18s next year.
“Hopefully, we can go back to back and get two grand finals in two seasons for the 18s.”