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A new era will kick off for the NRL in 2023 with the Dolphins set to gain entry in one of the most anticipated entries in the competition's history. 

Legendary coach Wayne Bennett will lead the new franchise for at least the next two seasons, ensuring the club will be well-placed from the start as they embark on their inaugural campaign. reflects on some key decisions by the Dolphins in 2022 and looks ahead to why things are in place for them to hit the ground running in their maiden season.

Uncle Wayne returns

Who doesn’t love a Wayne Bennett press conference? The short answers, the cheeky grin, the master coach working the mind games at his finest.

We’ve sure missed it.

The 2022 season without Bennett leading a team felt a bit strange but make no mistake behind closed doors the 72-year-old was working his magic at helping build the competition’s 17th team.

He’ll be front and centre when the squad forms for pre-season training in what will be an historic occasion in November.

Bennett's record speaks for itself and there's no better in the game to help a club build from scratch.

Wayne's World: Bennett reveals dream Dolphins' vision

Wayne’s babes

Speaking of Bennett, he’ll bring with him a massive contingent whom he’s either coached at club or representative level previously in the NRL, many of them producing career-best footy.

Former Titans trio Herman Ese’ese, Jarrod Wallace and Jamayne Isaako all played under Bennett at the Broncos in an era that also included mentoring Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima.

Mark Nicholls is the only former South Sydney player so far to link with his former coach.

Felise Kaufusi, Edrick Lee and Brenko Lee were all coached by Bennett during his comeback Origin series in 2020.

Bennett believes Bromwich can shape Dolphins future

Storm trio bring experience

The Storm forward pack will look awfully different in 2023 after the NRL’s newest franchise raided the powerhouse club to secure three of their most experienced players.

Felise Kaufusi and the Bromwich brothers – Jesse and Kenny – may not be coming to the Dolphins at the peak of their careers but with over 700 games at all levels between them, the trio will set the tone from the start. 

The Bromwich brothers won't join the Dolphins until the new year following their World Cup commitments with New Zealand.

It’s hammer time

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow may not have been on the Dolphins radar at the start of the year – mindful of the fact the Cowboys would do everything to keep him – but the form of Scott Drinkwater in 2022 did the new franchise a big favour.

Tabuai-Fidow will arrive to the Dolphins as one of their most exciting signings after being restricted to spending most of the season coming off the bench in North Queensland.

With the fullback spot up for grabs, it’s his to own in 2023. An ankle injury in Samoa's opening World Cup match is the only downer to start his Dolphins journey with the 21-year-old sent home for immediate treatment.

Hammer time in Townsville

Suncorp takeover

The Dolphins don’t have an official name when it comes to location and although the club is based in Redcliffe, there will be at least seven games where they’ll call Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium home.

This will be intriguing to watch given it is Bennett’s old stomping ground where he helped turn the Broncos into the powerhouse club since 1988.

The Broncos are considered a one-team town when it comes to the home side but the Dolphins have made it no secret they want to capitalise on one of the world’s best venues.

Along the way they're expected to attract a new supporter base, particularly young fans who are introduced to the game and need a team.

Dolphins commit to seven games at Suncorp Stadium

Money in the bank

There’s been a lot of chat in 2022 around the Dolphins failing to land a big-name star and that’s fair enough.

They’ve publicly chased the likes of Kalyn Ponga, Jahrome Hughes, Harry Grant and more recently Cameron Munster, only to have fallen short on every occasion.

They might not have landed a knockout blow yet but the fact they went close to Munster suggests there’s plenty of salary cap space available to go after a target in 2024.

Rome wasn’t built in a day so watch this space.

Three of the best

They’ve been accused of poaching the next crop of talent to come out of rival NRL clubs but in the end, the Dolphins are doing what everyone else is in a bid to build their next generation.

Steelers product Jack Bostock and Panthers pair Isaiya Katoa and Mason Teague are considered future stars of the game and will join the club’s top 30 in 2023.

Plying their trade under Bennett for their first major pre-season before Kristian Woolf takes over in 2025 will hold them in good stead in their careers.

Sean answers the SOS

SOS to playmaker

Some may say Sean O’Sullivan’s signing was a no-brainer with his father Peter in charge of recruitment at the club.

However, O’Sullivan put that to bed after his performances for Penrith while filling in for Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary this season.

This kid can play and has the footy brains to match the skill. How he develops further under Bennett’s watch will be a key storyline for the 2023 season.

Four-way derbies

What started out as Queensland’s local derby of big brother versus little brother has now turned into so much more with the addition of the Dolphins next season.

The Cowboys and Broncos have a rich history of rivalry, made more when the Titans came into the competition.

A new club coming into the NRL can be intimidating for rivals, particularly with junior development and knowing who owns what turf, so it shouldn't take long to spill onto the field at the top level.

Edrick Lee's historic night

Lee's resurgent return

Edrick Lee's career appeared to be all but over 12 months ago with a foot injury plaguing his time at Newcastle. 

He spent the last off-season on a train and trial deal at the Knights as he tried to work his way back onto the field after missing the entire 2021 season.

However, Lee defied the odds to make a comeback and went on to play in 16 games for the Hunter club in his final season, scoring 14 tries.

A fully fit Lee will be beneficiary for the Dolphins his ability to finish and consistency under the high ball crucial.

He's also strong carrying the ball out of yardage, averaging 124 metres per game at the Knights.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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