Bennett waits on Munster, looks to UK

·3-min read

Wayne Bennett has earmarked England as a key battleground, defending the Dolphins' NRL recruitment efforts and their hunt for Cameron Munster.

Bennett on Tuesday stuck to his guns despite the Dolphins' failed attempts to land a big fish, most recently Kalyn Ponga, for their maiden 2023 season.

Munster remains on contract at Melbourne until the end of next season, coach Craig Bellamy last week adamant there would be no early release for the Storm five-eighth.

Current rules allow Bennett to meet with Munster, but not table a contract for 2024 until November in a cagey predicament ARLC boss Peter V'landys thinks could be improved.

"I'm not unconfident," Bennett said when asked how he felt the pursuit of the State of Origin star was faring.

"We're still in process of talking to Melbourne, and finding out what his future is there and talking to us in between.

"We're quite comfortable with our position ... the NRL haven't told us we are (breaking rules) so we'll continue doing what we're doing."

The Dolphins added BlueBet as a sponsor on Tuesday while St George Illawarra junior Jack Bostock became the latest signing, the 19-year-old centre on a development contract next year before moving into the squad's top 30 in 2024.

Felise Kaufusi, Mark Nicholls, Ray Stone, Jesse and Kenny Bromwich form an experienced forward pack for their entry, while they have also signed Isaiya Katoa from Penrith's development system and lured highly-rated North Queensland forward Tom Gilbert south.

"There's criticism we haven't signed anybody, criticism about dad's army and there will be criticism about something else in the future," Bennett mused.

"My position on all that stuff is that if you start listening to the fans you'll be sitting with them.

"We know what we're doing, we're confident in it and no-one's going to distract me personally from doing what I think is the best thing in the club.

"There's a lot of things sitting in the cupboard back home we haven't released yet.

"No-one's telling any lies here ... it's not in our best interests to come out and make statements (today) until we've got some things secured away."

The former England coach did confirm he had used his connections to begin talks with Super League players and coaches.

Multiple NRL clubs are reportedly keen on 21-year-old Wigan centre Kai Pearce-Paull, despite him currently nursing a serious knee injury.

"That's a possibility; we've talked to some players over there already," Bennett said of the prospect of recruitment out of England.

"When I coached (England), out of the 20-odd players ... there were 20 of them in my opinion who would make good players in the NRL.

"A lot have come over, (former Raiders half) George Williams, just one of those, plus others.

"They (the Super League) haven't got them (quality players) in the numbers we've got them, but they've got them."

DOLPHINS' 2023 ROSTER:

* Jesse Bromwich, Ray Stone, Kenny Bromwich, Tom Gilbert, Jamayne Isaako, Felise Kaufusi, Mark Nicholls, Jack Bostock, Harrison Graham, Isaiya Katoa, Michael Roberts, Valynce Te Whare.

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