NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has backed the Dolphins to be competitive in their inaugural season after a meeting with club officials ahead of Magic Round in Brisbane.
NRL management spent Wednesday with the Dolphins and came away convinced the Telstra Premiership’s 17th team would be strong from the outset under seven times grand final winning coach Wayne Bennett.
The Dolphins have so far signed 12 members of their 30-man roster, headed by Storm Test forwards Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi, but are yet to announce any established playmakers or hookers.
However, Abdo said NRL officials had come away from their meetings with the Dolphins convinced that the Redcliffe-based club was well advanced in preparations for the 2023 season.
“Our management team spent a day with the Dolphins management team yesterday for an update on a range of matters – football, commercial and financial,” Abdo told reporters at Thursday's Magic Round launch in Brisbane.
“They are progressing really well, they have a plan. Contracting players and managing a roster is always going to be pretty dynamic but we have seen the plans in place and we are confident that they are going to be competitive.
“It’s a really competitive premiership and I think they are going to add a whole other dynamic next year.”
With the introduction of a 17th team, there will be a bye each round next season and Abdo said a second Brisbane franchise created other opportunities for the competition in 2023.
“We are really advanced around the season structure and the way the draw is going to evolve and change next year with 17 teams, and the ability for teams now to think about byes in a really long competition,” he said.
“From a season structure perspective, it’s good; from a Broncos rivalry perspective, it is good and we are really pleased with what we have seen from a fan’s perspective as well so we are very confident and I think the time frame works.
“This season will be fantastic and very soon after the grand final we will start to get excited about some interesting match-ups and the new dynamic of an extra team in the competition.”
The NRL eventually plans to introduce an 18th franchise and Papua New Guinea last week launched a bid to join the competition in 2025, while a second New Zealand team is among the preferred options for expansion.
“We are a long way off thinking about whether we move to 18 teams, when we do it and what that looks like,” Abdo said.
“But, of course, you always want to think about what is in the best interests of the game long term, carefully thinking through not only when is the right time to expand but how.
"Naturally, we're always looking at ways of being even more effective and efficient."
The Dolphins other key signings include Titans international Jamayne Isaako, South Sydney prop Mark Nichols, Cowboys forwards Tom Gilbert and Connelly Lemuelu and Penrith winger Robert Jennings.
The new franchise has also signed teenage Panthers halfback Isaiya Katoa, who was man-of-the-match in the recent SG Ball grand final triumph against the Sydney Roosters.