Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett insists that the NRL’s 17th franchise is prepared to wait beyond 2023 for key recruitment targets in a bid to ensure the club’s long-term success.
The Telstra Premiership’s second Brisbane team have appointed Bennett, recruitment guru Peter O’Sullivan and a number of former Broncos staff, while XXXX has come on board as a sponsor, but Storm second-rower Felise Kaufusi is their lone big name signing.
With the Dolphins only able to negotiate with players coming off contract next year, the talent available to Bennett in his first season in charge of the club is limited to less than a third of the NRL playing pool.
However, Bennett said it was vital that the Dolphins got their recruitment right and the club would not be rushed into making signings they later regretted.
“The salary cap is pretty ruthless so if you make a bad decision in your salary cap it costs you a lot of money and really impacts on your whole roster,” Bennett said.
“We are prepared to wait for players if we have to, to get the right player in the club. No one is looking for a quick fix here, no one is looking to win a premiership in year one.
“What we are looking for is to make sure we build a club that is very strong and that has a future through the decades and is always competitive.”
Bennett was the founding coach at the Broncos in 1988 and it took five years before the premiership trophy was taken to Brisbane but they have arguably been the most successful club in the game over the last three decades.
Unlike the Broncos, who joined the premiership at the same time as Newcastle and Gold Coast, or the 1995 expansion when four new teams were introduced, the Dolphins only competition for players is the existing 16 clubs.
However, those clubs are already managing salary caps, whereas the Dolphins have a $10 million war chest to spend before 2023, and Bennett said they would patiently wait for the right players to become available.
“If we get it wrong at the beginning, I tell you it will take us 10 years to get it right so we cannot afford to get it wrong at the beginning - and we won’t get it wrong at the beginning,” Bennett said.
“If we have to wait for a couple of players for another 12 months then we will do that to make sure we get a stronger squad.
“We want the best players we can get here. We haven’t set targets about getting so many players in so many months. We just want the right people and we just want to make good decisions.”
Hit list: Bennett questioned on Dolphins’ key targets
Dolphins CEO Terry Reader said that the club would be linked with any player coming off contract but there weren’t many who they had been deep in negotiations with and missed out on.
Instead, the new franchise was anticipating more players becoming available next year as clubs adjusted their rosters.
“It is not all about 2023, it is about building a squad, and it is not all about players 1-10 - there is 30 [players] in the list and it is all about making sure that fits together right, and we have got patience,” Reader said.
“With the rugby league cycle there will be a lot of things that happen in 2022 and we will also make sure we are in a position to make the most of those as well. There’s a lot of things going on in the background that are not for us to talk about in the public.”
Besides Kaufusi, the Dolphins have signed Parramatta forward Ray Stone and teenagers Harrison Graham, Valynce Te Whare and Michael Roberts, who is the younger brother of former NSW Origin centre James Roberts.
Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga is among the players linked with the Dolphins and Bennett said he had met with him but talks had not advanced any further at this stage.
“I have had one conversation with him but that is it," Bennett said. "I had never met Kalyn before so I just needed to talk to him.
"We are a long way from making a deal with him. He is committed to Newcastle right now so we will see how it goes."