Long-serving Dolphins chairman Bob Jones was in a boat repair shop on Wednesday morning when he took a phone call from a number he didn’t recognise with news that the club’s 33-year ambition had finally come to fruition.
After taking the call from NRL CEO Andrew Abdo at 9.05am, a teary Jones left the shop and walked to his car where he sat and reflected on his 50-year association with Redcliffe, in which the club has always strived to reach the highest pinnacle of the game.
With the ARLC due to choose this week between the rival Dolphins, Firehawks and Jets bids for the NRL’s 17th licence, Jones reached out to seven-time premiership-winning coach Wayne Bennett on Monday as he was determined to leave no stone unturned.
A deal is expected to be finalised within days for Bennett to take charge from November 1 and lead the recruitment of players he would coach in 2023 and beyond.
However, before the hard work begins to prepare the club for their debut season, Jones, Dolphins Group CEO Tony Murphy and bid team director Terry Reader took the opportunity to celebrate their achievement.
“I was actually getting a new winch post after breaking it up at Cape York last week when I got the phone call and I don’t often answer numbers when I don’t know them but it was lovely moment,” Jones said.
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“My thoughts went quickly away from my boat winch to a bit of relief and certainly elation. I sat in the car by myself and was a little bit teary. The Dolphins have been a major part of my life and it has been a wonderful club for me.”
The club’s website crashed soon after the announcement and Reader admitted that the Dolphins had not been expecting Abdo’s phone call.
“We were probably caught a bit off guard because we thought the ARLC was meeting later in the week, so it was a wonderful surprise for us all this morning and something obviously we have been working towards,” Reader said.
“This club operates to play rugby league at the highest level. That is why we started in 1947 and we have over 70 years of history. I think people forget that in 1987 we played Brothers in the BRL grand final in front of 40,000 people and the Dolphins had five Test players in the starting 13.
“Ever since that day this club has been investing in people, infrastructure and facilities to make sure that when that opportunity came they could deliver top flight football to their club. Today it has happened.”
Redcliffe were among the unsuccessful applications for a licence when the Auckland Warriors, North Queensland Cowboys, South Queensland Crushers and Western Reds were given the green light in 1994.
“It wasn’t a late decision for us to bid for the 17th licence,” Murphy said. “We have planned for this for a lot of years. It is in our strategic plan that we want to play in the strongest competition that we could.
This club operates to play rugby league at the highest level. That is why we started in 1947 and we have over 70 years of historyBid team director Terry Reader
“We have had plans and we always desired to play in that top comp and from Des Webb to [Dick] ‘Tosser’ Turner to Arthur Beetson, everyone has chimed in and helped.”
Jones said the club had ambitions to play at the highest level since the 1960s but stepped up their plans after the Gold Coast Titans became the last team to join the NRL in 2007.
“I looked in a filing cabinet about six months ago and found a report we had done by KPMG in how we could financially handle playing in the then NSWRL comp. It was just before the Super League war,” Jones said.
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“We got really serious about it 12 years ago and decided to make ourselves NRL ready by doing things that would give us income streams and building a stadium that could handle some NRL games and other sports like soccer, which is happening now.”
The Dolphins own a licenced club, a shopping centre, office space, a gymnasium and aquatic centre so money isn’t likely to be a problem and the club will begin approaching players from November 1, with Bennett’s appointment set to be announced before then.
“With lofty ambitions and wanting to be the best in the land you try to hire the best people in the land and I would think that if Wayne is not the best in the land he is right up there,” Jones said.
“We had never done much about it prior to the last few days really, when things were heating up, so we reached out to Wayne and had some initial talks.
“Those discussions are progressing nicely so hopefully in the not too distant future that will get tidied up but he is not signed yet.”
Having achieved their goal of a place in the NRL, the ambitions of the Dolphins now extend to winning the premiership and beating the Super League champions in the World Club Challenge.
“We want to be standing here holding the world championship at some stage,” Jones said.
“You wouldn’t think that would happen immediately, but it is certainly our goal to be right at the top of the tree and be a sustainable successful club for many, many years."
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