Why the Dolphins Franchise Can Be Successful

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Premierships10 (1965, 1994, 1996, 1997 (BRL and QCup), 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2018)
Runners Up12 (1973, 1975, 1977, 1981, 1983, 1987, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2012, 2016)
Well-Known PlayersArthur Beetson, Greg Oliphant, Chris Close, Wally Fullerton-Smith, Michael Crocker, Kotoni Staggs, Toby Rudolf

Time to paint the town “red and white” as the NRL officially announced this week that the Redcliffe Dolphins – sorry – The Dolphins are the new 17th NRL team, joining the competition in 2023.  

This creates a new rivalry for the Broncos, and the Dolphins’ geographic base and potential incoming coach will certainly help that in the early years.

It’s not too surprising as we declared the Redcliffe Dolphins bid the best one earlier this year.

The Dolphins have got the nod over the Easts Leagues-backed Brisbane Firehawks and the Brisbane Jets (which was a merger of the long-term Brisbane Bombers project and the Ipswich Jets). Any of those sides would have made a great addition to the NRL, but the Dolphins simply ticked more boxes.

The team should be well-supported for existing Redcliffe fans and those Brisbane-based fans who don’t like the Broncos. With some smart recruiting of the best of the interstate Queenslanders, their appeal could stretch wider than Brisbane, and create a team that will be competitive straight away: an important factor when considering the South Queensland Crushers were mediocre at best during their brief stay in the old Australian Rugby League.

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As a Redcliffe fan who can remember sitting on the old grass hill (where the main grandstand is now) as a kid in the pre-Broncos era prior to 1988, it is a little surreal to think that the Dolphins will be an NRL team in less than two years.

The NRL’s nod certainly justifies Redcliffe’s then-opposition to the fledgling Gold Coast NRL team using the Dolphins moniker, as they’d originally planned before their entry into the NRL back in 2007. The Dolphins would indeed eventually play in the NRL as they argued a few decades ago, but in the red and white colours of the Redcliffe Dolphins.

Why the Redcliffe bid?

It has seemed for a while that the Dolphins’ bid would be the successful one, and they do have a lot of things going for them. Mainly the ability to stand on their own two feet from the beginning.

Given the risk to having another team in the NRL competition, the fact that the Dolphins will reportedly be one of the most financial NRL clubs straight away will be of much comfort to the NRL.

They have a massive Leagues Club backing them, a great junior system, and a ground good enough for the NRL. The Dolphins will play most of their games out of Suncorp Stadium – like any new NRL side was going to – but they can at least play at their own stadium a few times a season – unlike any other bid. And they have a “Bee Gees Way” exhibit display that no other club can offer.

And the Dolphins are winners too. They consistently feature in the finals in the Intrust Super Cup, and were one of the most dominant teams in the Queensland Cup era (from 1996), winning a record six titles and making a further six grand finals.

That’s not to say that other bids, the Firehawks in particular, also had great financial backing, a big Leagues Club and a nice ground, but the Dolphins’ package always seemed that little bit better. And despite the name Redcliffe being dropped, the geographic difference could have also been key, with the Firehawks being just a second Brisbane team.

One wonders if the Easts-backed bid should have gone with a different nickname other than the Firehawks, which was continually questioned as to what it was, either genuinely or facetiously.

For the Jets you get the feeling if this process goes around again that they will be right in the mix again, with the NRL keen to cover the western market of Brisbane and beyond, especially given the Brisbane Lions AFL team are moving their base into the Ipswich region.

Who Will Coach The Dolphins?

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This one seems to be sorted already, with coaching legend Wayne Bennett the man to lead the NRL’s newest team. And what a coup for the Dolphins.

The man who led the Broncos into the NSWRL in 1988 is now in charge of Brisbane’s newest team, and with multiple grand finals and premierships, they could hardly get a better person for the job. And you certainly can’t say he is on the way out after guiding South Sydney to this season’s grand final and winning the State of Origin series in 2020 with Queensland’s weakest side on paper since 1995.

Having Bennett in charge means they are more likely to attract stars to the new NRL team too. More than likely they will be Queenslanders wanting to return home, but who wouldn’t want play under one of the NRL’s greatest coaches? While he may not get the pick of the Brisbane talent pool like he did with the Broncos in 1988, he is a good chance of landing a lot of good off-contract players.

And Bennett could spend his years bringing through coaching talent too. The Dolphins’ current coach Adam Mogg could be one of Wayne’s assistants, or any of a number of great Queensland Cup coaches just waiting for a break, like Norths’ premiership winning coach Rohan Smith.

Leaving his on-field credentials aside for one last thought, there’s also the delicious prospect of Bennett leading Brisbane’s new team against the incumbent Broncos. Not forgetting this is the team who fired him and reportedly tried to trash his reputation on the way out in a Homer Simpson-esque salting of the earth. That sets up a nice rivalry angle straight away, one that Wayne will be sure to answer in his expressive style.

Which Players can the Dolphins attract?

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The timing of the Dolphins’ announcement is great: with the November 1 deadline looming, players who are off-contract for 2023 now have another club as an option. There are some good ones that are ripe for the picking for the Dolphins too.

They could almost seal a spine straight away. Given Cameron Munster’s off-field shenanigans at Melbourne, you can see the Storm allowing him to return to Queensland to lead the Dolphins. His fellow Storm teammate and late-night powder aficionado Brandon Smith is a great option for the number nine. Surely he won’t want to be second fiddle to Harry Grant for more seasons than necessary?

If the Dolphins wished to avoid those Storm players then Cody Walker and Reed Mahoney would be arguably even better potential signings.

Walker is a great example of why the 17th NRL team is a good thing. Walker is a late bloomer who finally got his chance thanks to South Sydney. The outgoing Rabbitohs coach may use Walker as an example to many players in the local competition that the NRL dream can still happen, and that a new team provides that extra opportunity.

There’s talk of Kalyn Ponga too, who could fill the fullback spot. But there’s also the Roosters’ Joey Manu, who is the kind of player you could throw a cheque book at, tell him to name the position he wants to play, and build around that. As much as the Dolphins will use the Queensland base to attract homesick players down south, they are also ambitious enough to try and sign the very best regardless of origin.

Halfbacks seem to be a little harder to pick, but they could do worse than a Kodi Nikorima or Cooper Johns. Or maybe see if George Williams likes the Brisbane bayside to Canberra?

As for the rest of the positions there is a really good mix of youth and experience coming off-contract, and the Dolphins will need to fill the gaps well to be competitive straight away.

Perhaps a twilight season or two from Josh McGuire to lead with his experience is a good idea. Martin Taupau too could be good as a original prop. Coen Hess could also reinvigorate his career with a move south.

One also wonders if Redcliffe could be brave and give the PNG Hunters the NRL feeder program they have deserved for years. They are bound to produce a few gems for the NRL if given a chance. And there are a number of young, fringe NRL players from Queensland who may not get a look in with the Broncos currently being the only game in town. Or indeed they can keep their own local juniors now instead of them heading to other NRL clubs.

Can they win?

Given the head coach they are about to hire, and his track record of success and ability to attract players, combined with a genuine glut of quality players available for 2023, one could boldly declare top eight for the Dolphins in their first season and a premiership within five years.

Plus, as stated earlier, the club are winners: the most successful in the modern era of the Queensland Cup.

The Dolphins are an incredibly well-run club, and have been waiting for the opportunity for a long time. They have the systems in place, the juniors, and money behind them to not just make up the numbers in the NRL.

What’s in a name?

Well, the name is currently a sticking point. The announcement on Wednesday (October 13) made it seem like the club was only going to use “The Dolphins” but had originally said they would consult the community before deciding. Names like North Brisbane, Bayside and Moreton have been thrown around so far: Moreton seems to be the best of that bunch.

But why not Redcliffe we say? There’s plenty of argument as to why, but these seem to be only applying to Brisbane teams. Redcliffe is similar geographically to Manly Warringah, but are they forced to be called the Northern Beaches Eagles (leaving out the Northern Eagles experience)? Similar to Cronulla-Sutherland, they are not forced to be called the Shire Sharks or Botany Bay.

Some may point out that the Dolphins are a new team, so the above for Sydney clubs doesn’t apply, but the Redcliffe Dolphins have been around since 1947, so the history is there too.

And since it appears that the team aren’t going to be called “Brisbane” or may just go as “The Dolphins”, then why is Redcliffe a big no-no? What’s the difference between Moreton, North Brisbane, or indeed Redcliffe.

Colours should remain the same as the distinctive red and white of the current Dolphins, with red being the predominant colour. Yes, the St George Illawarra Dragons are red and white, but the Dragons jersey is mainly white with a big red V. The Dolphins will be the opposite and own the colour red.

While it was always expected that the Dolphins would play out of Suncorp Stadium, it is good to know the Dolphins team intend to allow some games to be played in Redcliffe too.

That will be a memorable occasion when it happens, and despite the hill being long gone these days, it will be an opportunity not to be missed for anyone who can remember the good old days of the Redcliffe Dolphins in the local competition, and are now pinching themselves that “The Dolphins” are in the NRL.

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