Rewrite this content
“We know what we’re doing, we’re confident in what we’re doing.”
When supercoach Wayne Bennett uttered those words last year after missing out on yet another marquee target for the Dolphins in Reece Walsh, few externally would have shared the same sense of calm.
The NRL’s newest franchise went into the 2022 season without a big-name recruit but instead a roster filled with experience and potential.
Watch every game of every round of the 2023 NRL Telstra Premiership Season LIVE on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
And there was vindication in Round 1 as the Dolphins beat competition heavyweights the Sydney Roosters 28-18 with a resounding performance. Bennett’s smile in the post-match press conference is now a part of rugby league folklore.
While it’s just one game and there’s a long, hard road ahead for the 17th franchise the future is certainly looking bright.
Especially after the club acquired two of the Broncos’ brightest stars, Herbie Farnworth and Thomas Flegler, for the 2024 season.
Their show of faith — and the early success and spirit shown by Bennett’s team — could inspire others to take the leap and join the Dolphins, and pocket a sizeable cheque along the way.
Having missed many of their early targets, Bennett and the Dolphins still have big money left to spend and The Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield revealed the club still had a whopping $2 million in their salary cap for 2023.
NRL clubs must spend 95 per cent of their salary cap each season, meaning those leftover funds will likely be used to pay player’s contracts ahead of time. That opens up even more cap space for 2023 and beyond as the new club chases prospective marquee players.
Farnworth is set shift to fullback under Bennett, while Flegler joins an impressive front row with Jesse Bromwich, Mark Nicholls and Jarrod Wallace.
Fiery Foran feud with Ofahengaue | 00:45
Get all the latest NRL news, highlights and analysis delivered straight to your inbox with Fox Sports Sportmail. Sign up now!!
Kenny Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi have the edge forward roles locked down, but with age not on their side the Dolphins could be looking for another backrower.
Meanwhile, Sean O’Sullivan and Isaiya Katoa were impressive in Round 1 — but the Dolphins are still searching for an elite playmaker having missed out on the likes of Kalyn Ponga, Cameron Munster, Harry Grant and Jahrome Hughes.
Some of the biggest names in the competition will come off-contract in the coming seasons and Dolphins are sure to be big players in the market.
Here are the players who hit the open market come November 1 and could be tabled offers by the Dolphins for 2025!
The Raiders star has a player option for the 2024 season and is technically therefore free to negotiate with rivals this season. However, Wighton will likely take that option in his favour, before assessing his options for the 2025 season. The 30-year-old five-eighth is one of the most damaging ball runners in the competition and is showing no signs of slowing down. Bennett may want to hand Wighton the final contract of his career to ply his trade north of the nation’s capital and his experience could prove invaluable alongside Katoa or Sullivan in the halves.
Hynes has become a hero in the Shire and the Sharks have reportedly begun negotiations to extend the reigning Dally M Medallist’s contract beyond 2024. However, the Dolphins could table a multimillion-dollar offer to good to refuse, setting the 26-year-old up for life. Hynes can play at halfback, five-eighth and at fullback and is a coaches’ dream in terms of being a leader and a consistent performer. Every club in the NRL with cap space will likely be putting their name in the hat for Hynes, although it seems he will likely remain in Cronulla.
The Manly young gun is set to make a long-awaited switch into the halves this season and was absent from Round 1 due to injury. Schuster’s contract with the Sea Eagles runs out at the end of 2024 and if his move to the No.6 jersey is successful, he could be a hot commodity come November 1. Schuster started his NRL career in the backrow and his versatility also adds to his potential value.
Mitchell Moses’ contract saga has rolled on for months after the Eels went down to the Panthers in the grand final. Despite initially saying he wanted his future locked in prior to Round 1, the Eels’ first game against the Storm has rolled around and NRL fans still don’t know which jersey Moses will be wearing beyond 2023. The Tigers reportedly tabled a $1.5m per-year deal which the Dolphins could likely match, while the Eels remain the favourite to retain the marquee playmaker.
While Edwards is unlikely to join the Dolphins, his talent and determination cannot be understated and multiple clubs will likely table the 27-year-old lucrative offers. While the Panthers will almost certainly re-sign their No.1 before he hits the open market, with three big-name players coming off-contract their cap could be squeezed. Edwards, alongside Isaah Yeo and Liam Martin, is free to negotiate with rivals come November 1 and Bennett may mastermind a play to sign the hardworking fullback. However, that move seems unlikely given Farnworth’s desire to wear the No.1 jersey.
Yeo is one of the NRL’s best No.13s and has become an integral figure for both NSW and Australia, making his Kangaroos debut during his side’s victorious World Cup campaign. Another of the big-name Panthers coming off-contract and another the reigning premiers will likely tie down as soon as possible. The Panthers co-captain will likely receive a wave of offers if he is still a free agent come November 1, with Bennett likely to be one of many hoping to sign the gun lock.
Martin signed a one-year contract extension for 2024, prolonging an inevitable contract circus with multiple clubs set to put their best offers forward. The NSW backrower will likely receive a hefty upgrade from his current contract, however the Panthers may not have the cap space available to compete with rival offers. With Kenny Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi coming to the end of their careers, at only 26 Martin is heading into the best years of his career and the Dolphins will likely table an offer for the boom backrower.
Graham is one of the NRL’s best centres and has become an integral figure in the Rabbitohs starting side. Partnering Koloamantangi on the right edge, Graham’s strong defence and damaging bal-running ability earned him selection for the Kangaroos, winning the World Cup in England. With several big-name stars including Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker, the Rabbitohs may be unable to rival offers tabled by other clubs when Graham comes off-contract at the end of 2024. Bennett, who coached the 23-year-old across three seasons could attempt to pry the representative centre north.
Another player coached by Bennett at the Dolphins and another booming backrower that could catch the eye of the supercoach. Koloamatangi is one of the NRL’s most damaging edge forwards and Bennett handed him his NRL debut in Round 4 of the 2020 season. The 24-year-old has since played 65 NRL games and has been in the conversation for a Origin debut, having been named in the Blues squad for the first game of the 2021 series. Bennett will likely be one of many suitors for the Rabbitohs gun backrower when he hits the open market on November 1.
Another player who penned a one-year extension prior to the start of the season, extending his stay at the Tigers until the end of 2024. The 24-year-old is an impressive playmaker who won’t be short of offers when he comes off-contract. Doueihi will likely remain at Leichhardt, having expressed his desire to captain the club to foxsports.com.au. However, with cap space to burn, Bennett could throw money at the versatile playmaker.