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'Incredibly impressed': Abdo confirms Dolphins right on track for 2023

NRL Chief Executive Officer Andrew Abdo says he's "incredibly impressed" with the commercial and football strength of the Dolphins as the game prepares for the introduction of its 17th team in 2023.

Abdo was joined by Dolphins chief executive Terry Reader and head coach Wayne Bennett in addressing the media after extensive meetings with club officials on Friday, with the NRL boss reaffirming the club's progress since officially gaining their licence from the ARLC on October 13 last year.

"We got an update and presentation from the leadership of the club and I am really impressed with the work they have done off-field as well as their plans for the long-term," Abdo said. "All [of it] is in alignment with what the ambition was for introducing a 17th team into the competition.

"This was always about growth. This was always about the acquisition of new fans and the development of new players (men and women) across rugby league."

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett, NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo and Dolphins chief executive Terry Reader at Rugby League Central on Friday.
Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett, NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo and Dolphins chief executive Terry Reader at Rugby League Central on Friday. ©Grant Troutville/NRL Photos

While still ensuring that the club's short-term goals were being met in order to ensure a competitive outfit in 2023, Abdo said he was additionally impressed with the long-term focus from the Redcliffe-based club, highlighting the strength of pathways, game development, community engagement and commercial initiatives that had already been received with aplomb in the region.

"A key part of the presentation today looked at how the club is tracking from a commercial sense and the strong portfolio of sponsors the club has managed to secure," Abdo emphasised. 

It puts them comfortably in the top four when benchmarked with the other NRL clubs from a sponsorship perspective.

NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo

"They are tracking incredibly well from a membership perspective; there has been a huge take up from members which will hopefully translate into significant attendance across the stadiums that the club has planned for their fixtures next year.

"Commercially and from a structure perspective, the club is in incredible shape. We know it's a strong business with strong assets."

"We were incredibly impressed with the progress that has been made... [the Dolphins] are well and truly competing off the field."

Dolphins chief executive Terry Reader said the off-field growth around the club since gaining its licence justified the Commission's decision to introduce a second Brisbane team into the NRL.

"We're very proud of the commercial program the club has built," Reader said, "as it shows the Commission's decision-making in bringing in the Dolphins but also the strength of bringing a second team into Brisbane.

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett at Friday's press conference.
Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett at Friday's press conference. ©NRL Photos

"There is an appetite for rugby league there. There's a lot of corporate partners who haven't been able to invest in rugby league because of the strength of the main side in Brisbane, which now has a major competitor in the Dolphins.

"We couldn't be happier," he said. "We've put the building blocks in place this year so that when we come into the competition next year, we can be competitive and not just building for 2023 but forever. We're the first foundation QRL club to ascend to the NRL which is quite exciting for everyone in the game."

With the club confirming the appointment of Tonga coach Kristian Woolf to its coaching staff as the recruitment of the "hottest coaching property in world rugby league", head coach Wayne Bennett said he was pleased with how the club was progressing in its plans for 2023. 

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf will join Wayne Bennett at the Dolphins in 2023.
Tonga coach Kristian Woolf will join Wayne Bennett at the Dolphins in 2023. ©NRL Photos

With "four or five" players still to be added to its top 30 for the 2023 season, Bennett said his recruitment priority was securing some high-profile outside backs.

"It hasn't been perfect but it was never going to be perfect," Bennett said. "We're not going to be a perfect football team and we'll have our moments.

"But we're pretty close to where we want to be.

"Our coaching staff is almost all organised — we have just one more coach to go now — and the physical and high performance guys are in place.

"Kristian has done his coaching apprenticeship which gives him the best chance as a head coach," he added. "I like his credentials.

"I don't him personally well but he'll be ready. I'll handle a lot of it in the short term to let him come back into the group but I'm confident he'll get the job done and the club has backed him to take over from me."

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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