Dolphins forward Tom Gilbert says the prospect of playing alongside an experienced and successful pack was one of the key reasons why he left North Queensland to join the new NRL club.
The 22-year-old had a breakout season at the Cowboys this season where he represented the Queensland Maroons in State of Origin.
He has previously mentioned that his Brisbane-based extended family was a key reason for him moving south, but he had footballing reasons as well.
Gilbert will play alongside premiership-winning former Melbourne forwards Kenny and Jesse Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi. Veteran former South Sydney prop Mark Nicholls is also on deck.
The eloquent Gilbert, speaking before a Dolphins function with sponsors, is regarded as a future NRL captain but has other short-term ambitions at the Wayne Bennett-coached club.
"Down the track definitely ... but I am coming into a time in my career where I want to be led just as much as I want to lead," Gilbert said when asked about his leadership aspirations.
"I want to learn and listen. I am young and only starting to understand what first grade is about.
"I think for me to go to the next level I need players like Jesse, Kenny, Felise and Mark around me to support me and take me to the next level on and off the field.
"When I was talking to Wayne (Bennett) and going to sign my contract what gave me a lot of comfort was to be around these blokes day-in and day-out."
Gilbert said his conversation with Bennett before signing his three-year contract was also pivotal.
"Wayne was honest and told me things he thought he could help my game with and things that I could do to help my own game," Gilbert said.
"I am coming here to be under one of the best coaches to ever coach in the NRL and some of the best leaders in the NRL. That's why I don't have second guesses in joining the Dolphins."
The Dolphins have been written off by many pundits for 2023 but Gilbert said he was "proud to be a Dolphin" and excited for what is ahead.
"Jesse (Bromwich) is the Test captain of New Zealand and has been the Melbourne captain. For young forwards like myself to play alongside someone like that is an honour and only a positive," Gilbert said.
"It comes with the game, the negativity. I am the one representing the jersey and I am proud of the club. I see nothing but positives for what is ahead.
"If you look at the bigger picture you have got Ray Stone coming from Parramatta and Sean (O'Sullivan) has been at the Roosters and Penrith, really successful organisations.
"If we can blend in right together and learn off each other it can be a great mix."