On a day of firsts for the club, the Dolphins held their first pre-season training session with plenty of interest in how the side would shape up in 2023.
With many of the club’s more established recruits like Anthony Milford (Samoa), Felise Kaufusi (Tonga) and the Bromwich brothers Jesse and Kenny (New Zealand) still in England for the Rugby League World Cup, it was club’s fresh faces and train and trialists who were on show on the training paddock as excitement continue to build for the club's inaugural season.
Coach Wayne Bennett, however, had his eye firmly fixed on one key first – his club’s opening round game.
“Terry [Reader – Dolphins CEO] has made the point about all the starts and how many times I have been asked about being a part of something [new]; let’s just get to the kick off in three months’ time," Bennett said. "We’ll all be in a better place [then] and have an understanding of what’s in front of us."
Bennett was looking forward to the first session he'd have with his full squad next year with the club welcoming more players into the fold over the coming weeks.
When all hands are back on deck, including assistant coach Kristian Woolf who has also been at the World Cup with Tonga, Bennett said that only then would the club be able to fully turn their focus to the 2023 campaign and beyond.
“The bottom line is, we start the competition with everyone else next year, and we’ll have a plan in place about how we want to be, how we want to be perceived, and it will be a matter of buying into that,” Bennett said.
“It will be a process, if it takes five years or 10 years, who knows. But get the process right, and you’re a lot closer to success.
“[The pre-season will be] pretty chaotic. There is really not much you can do except get some guys fit and do a little bit of work with them, but nothing is really going to happen at the club until January 5 when everyone arrives.”
One of the players who will be in action then is halfback Milford, who turned in a player of the match performance to see Samoa edge Tonga in their quarter-final.
“I was just pleased they won, but I was disappointed for Tonga and Kristian, and I have a few good friends in Ben Hornby and Dean Young who are part the coaching staff who are great guys,” Bennett said at the club’s press conference launching a new sponsor.
Match Highlights: Tonga v Samoa
“But on the other side, I was pleased for Milford, because I just thought it gives him another game and playing with a bit more confidence.
"A semi-final is pretty much full on... he’ll come back with a lot of confidence.”
With an announcement for the 2023 NRL Draw expected in the near future, Bennett didn't hide his excitement about the rivalry that would inevitably build with his former club and cross-town rivals in the Broncos.
“That’ll be just natural, it will be driven by the fans,” Bennett said.
“It’ll be two Brisbane clubs together, will be a bit like Manchester City and Manchester United and some of those competitions around the world that have that type of situation. I hope it is [like that] — I want it to be that way as there’s great interest.
“When the Crushers were here, we had 40-odd thousand people turn up when the Crushers played and they hadn’t even won a game at one stage... it’s good, it’s healthy.”