2023 Dolphins Preview

The Dolphins make their NRL debut in 2023, and while a lot of the talk is about who they haven’t signed, there’s enough experience and quality in their squad to be competitive. They do have Supercoach Wayne Bennett in charge, who is looking at arguably his hardest challenge since the Broncos entered the NSWRL in 1988. Avoiding coming last in their first season is a realistic goal, and will be quite the achievement.



Anthony Milford, Brenko Lee, Connelly Lemuelu, Edrick Lee, Euan Aitken, Felise Kaufusi, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Harrison Graham, Herman Ese’ese, Isaiya Katoa, Jack Bostock, Jamayne Isaako, Jarrod Wallace, Jeremy Marshall-King, Jesse Bromwich, JJ Collins, Kenneath Bromwich, Kodi Nikorima, Mark Nicholls, Mason Teague, Oliver Gildart, Poasa Faamausili, Ray Stone, Robert Jennings, Sean O’Sullivan, Tesi Niu, Thomas Gilbert, Valynce Te Whare, Jeremiah Simbiken, Michael Roberts. Coach: Wayne Bennett


Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Edrick Lee, Oliver Gildart, Tesi Niu, Jack Bostock, Anthony Milford, Sean O’Sullivan, Jesse Bromwich, Jeremy Marshall-King, Mark Nicholls, Felise Kaufusi, Kenny Bromwich, Tom Gilbert, Kodi Nikorima, Euan Aitken, Ray Stone, Jarrod Wallace.


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Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Tom Gilbert. The Dolphins have struggled to recruit and are still shy of a full squad and a marquee player, and there are players who look like pure filler, so not all signings have been great, nor exciting.

Of course, the Melbourne Storm trio are great signings on the basis of providing real experience and leadership in the formative years of the fledgling NRL club, but no offence to the Kaufusi or the Bromwich brothers, but they aren’t exciting signings.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow certainly is, and the Dolphins have done some good business here, taking advantage of his falling from grace due to injury at the Cowboys. Tabuai-Fidow should provide some real spark from the back, in a backline that doesn’t look too inspiring.

Tom Gilbert is a young NRL forward on the rise, a quality the Dolphins don’t have in abundance for their first season, so the newly minted Origin forward will be key for this season and beyond.


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Sean O’Sullivan finally will get the full-time crack at NRL he deserves, and the pressure will be on to lead the NRL debutants. He showed why people rate him so highly while filling in admirably for Nathan Cleary at Penrith in 2022, providing a steady hand and not looking out of place in the best NRL team in the competition. Wayne Bennett has spoken highly of the halfback in recent weeks, recalling that he hired the halfback for the Broncos before he was fired and never got to coach. He has that chance now and talked up O’Sullivan’s efforts in pre-season training.


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Valynce Te Whare is the player to watch from outside the top 17 nominated above. Who knows, Wayne Bennett may pull a rabbit from his hat and play him, but unlikely. The recent rugby union convert showed signs of future greatness with a strong season for the Redcliffe Dolphins HostPlus Cup side which made the Grand Final in 2022. He is a dynamic ball runner, with more than a hint of Latrell Mitchell about him.

Similarly, halfback Isaiya Katoa will likely not make an NRL debut in Round 1 for the Dolphins. But after his strong performances for Tonga at the World Cup, if either Milford or Nikorima get injured or play poorly, and both are semi-likely, then Katoa will be ready to grab his opportunity. Katoa is a potential superstar, stolen from Penrith’s production line of talent, and will be a key player for the future for the Dolphins, if not later in the 2023 season.

One player who looks set to make the first Dolphins side for Round 1 is Ray Stone, who has quickly become a fan favourite based on his trial form. Stone has been hard as a rock in attack and defense, and brought an intensity that will be needed with the battles ahead for 2023 as a new NRL club.

And a quick word on the Dolphins link with the PNG Hunters. Finally, PNG rugby league has a direct pathway into the NRL through the Hunters-Dolphins deal. For 2023 they have included four players in a train and trial deal: Judah Rimbu, Rodrick Tai, Emmanuel Waine, Sherwin Tanabi. It will be interesting to see if any make the grade in 2023. If it proves successful this season, it could be a long and prosperous relationship for all. Rodrick Tai looks the best bet right now.


Many have predicted the Dolphins to finish last in 2023, and one wonders if that would have changed if they had signed any of the marquee names they were chasing. Perhaps, but at least the squad they have appears to be all-in for the Dolphins and coach Wayne Bennett, even if some of them look like their best NRL days are behind them.

The starting 17 looks comparable to teams tipped to finish in the lower rungs of the NRL ladder in 2023, and who knows, with Wayne Bennett and their experienced players they might have enough to hover around the middle of the ladder in the first half of the season.

But squad depth is a real worry, as it stands the Dolphins haven’t filled their 30-man squad. Although there’s loads of potential with the development players and train and trial deals, come State of Origin time and they potentially lose Tom Gilbert, Felise Kaufusi and maybe Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow plus injuries, the squad looks thin.

That’s not to say the Dolphins won’t throw up a surprise or two throughout 2023, and despite the ceiling currently looking like being a bottom six club in 2023, there is genuine hope that they can avoid the wooden spoon in their first season. If they do, it will be a huge effort thanks to their experienced players, having an extremely well run club off the field, and a bolter or two taking the NRL by storm.

For the moment, fans and observers of the Dolphins simply have to trust the process and Wayne Bennett to deliver in 2023. Off field the Dolphins looks strong, with support growing, loads of good sponsorship deals, excellent feeder arrangement in key rugby league nurseries, and they have plenty of money left in the bank for future marquee signings. In short, the Dolphins are in it for the long term, and some short-term pain in 2023 will be worth the journey in a few years’ time.

But at least for 2023 Brisbane will get a local derby again, and early signs that there will be plenty of feeling in it, and lifelong Redcliffe fans can see their team play in the NRL, which will be joy enough for many no matter the results.

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