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Woolf joins Bennett in coaching 'dream team'

The Dolphins have snared the hottest coaching property in world rugby league with the signing of Kristian Woolf on a long-term deal.

Woolf, the current St Helens coach in the English Super League, will be the assistant to Wayne Bennett, the greatest grand final-winning coach in Australian rugby league.

It brings together a coaching dream team for the Dolphins, who will debut in the NRL in season 2023.

Woolf is the man who has led the Tongan revolution in international rugby league, transforming the tiny Pacific Island nation from Test minnow into a celebrated powerhouse.

Along the way Tonga defeated New Zealand and Great Britain, and then became the first Tier Two nation in 40 years to defeat the Australian Kangaroos.

In 2020 the former Cowboys, Broncos and Knights’ assistant took up an opportunity with English glamour club St Helens.

Under Woolf St Helens has won the last two English Super League Grand Finals, the 2021 Challenge Cup Final, and have just claimed the 2022 English Super League minor premiership.

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Bennett said Woolf had amassed a strong coaching resume that made him the Dolphins’ number-one target for the position.

“Kristian has done his time as both an assistant and a head coach and done everything right to deserve this opportunity,” said Bennett.

“He has been an assistant at a couple of different NRL clubs, has been a head coach in the Queensland Cup, and has had a lot of success coaching in England over the last few years.

“Kristian has done the deal to bring his family home to Queensland and I am certain he is going to be a great asset to the Dolphins and is next in line as head coach of the club.”

Dolphins’ chief executive Terry Reader said it was no secret that Woolf had significant interest from other NRL clubs as a head coach.

“There is no doubt that gaining Woolf’s signature is a significant coup for the Dolphins,” said Reader.

“He has produced success wherever he goes and that has made him one of the most sought-after young coaches in rugby league.

“He is also a Queenslander, so understands the proud history and the importance of the success of the Dolphins.

Dolphins building beyond 2023 with Woolf appointment

“Bringing him together with Wayne Bennett gives confidence to the players we have signed to be part of our first season, and those that are considering coming to the club.

“It also gives the Dolphins great stability and a long-term plan for our coaching ranks and underlines our board’s designated model of building a club for the future, not just 2023.”

Woolf will join the Dolphins at the conclusion of Tonga’s World Cup commitments in November.

Kristian Woolf

Born July 6, 1975 (Mt Isa, Qld)

Coaching Career (CLUB)

2009-2011: Cowboys NYC under-20s coach (Grand Finalists 2011)

2012-2014: Broncos NRL assistant coach

2015-2018: Townsville Blackhawks head coach (Grand Finalists 2015)

2019: Newcastle Knights assistant coach; interim head coach (2 matches)

2020-2022: St Helens head coach (English Super League champions 2020-21; Challenge Cup winners 2021; 2022 English Super League minor premiers)

Coaching Career (INTERNATIONAL)

2014-2022: Tonga head coach (2017 Rugby League World Cup semi-finalists; 2019 victories over Great Britain and Australian Kangaroos)

Acknowledgement of Country

The Dolphins respect and honour 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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