'Critical': Dolphins link with Wayne Bennett in huge $2M NRL deal

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·Sports Reporter
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Wayne Bennett has been announced as the head coach of NRL expansion team the Dolphins, starting from 2023. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
Wayne Bennett has been announced as the head coach of NRL expansion team the Dolphins, starting from 2023. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Veteran NRL coach Wayne Bennett has been confirmed as head coach of expansion side the Dolphins when they enter the competition in 2023.

Speculation has linked Bennett to a potential coaching role with the NRL's new expansion side for months, with Wednesday's confirmation of the Dolphins joining the league paving the way for the coaching call.

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Bennett has reportedly agreed to a three-year deal to coach the Dolphins.

The Australian Rugby League Commission on Wednesday announced it had approved both the expansion of the competition and Redcliffe - to be known as The Dolphins - as the successful bid ahead of other expansion hopefuls Brisbane Firehawks and Brisbane Jets.

After coaching South Sydney to the 2021 NRL grand final, Bennett will be tasked with assembling a squad that can compete early on in the Dolphins' NRL existence.

According to NewsCorp, Bennett's deal will be worth in excess of $2 million, with ARLC Chairman Peter V'Landys saying Bennett was 'critical' to the successful bid.

“Wayne Bennett is critical to all of this,” he said.

“One thing we want is the Dolphins to be competitive in the first year.

“Someone of the calibre of Wayne Bennett will make sure the Dolphins will be very competitive in the first year. He will mould and develop the players. He is one of the smartest football brains that I have met. He is light years ahead of most people and his football knowledge is extraordinary."

The Dolphins become the NRL's first expansion team since Gold Coast, who joined the premiership in 2007.

The 17-team competition sees the NRL become a 26-round competition with every team continuing to play 24 games with two byes, with the total number of regular-season games increasing from 192 to 204.

V'landys said it was a landmark moment in the game's history and would continue the push to grow the game in Queensland.

"Today is an exciting moment in the history of our game ... on behalf of the Commission I would like to congratulate The Dolphins on being granted the 17th licence," V'landys said in a statement.

"I would also like to acknowledge and thank the other bid teams for the work they put into their submissions. All three bids were of the highest calibre and highlight the strength of rugby league in Queensland."

Bennett's hiring of player manager Sam Ayoub to get the deal done has ruffled some feathers in the NRL world, with Ayoub linked to several players set to become available in 2023.

Parramatta's eyebrows were raised in particular, with their negotiations with Ayoub clients Clint Gutherson, Reed Mahoney and Junior Paulo all ongoing.

Bennett's links to South Sydney star Cody Walker have seen the fullback also identified as a potential Dolphins target.

Dolphins become NRL's first expansion team since 2007

Bennett himself has experience in setting up a new side after doing so at Brisbane in 1988, but this is a far different operation given 20 of his 24 players that year came direct from the Brisbane Rugby League.

The new team will not be given concessions in the manner in which the AFL set up GWS and Gold Coast, with the NRL instead insistent they will have the structures in place for early success.

"We are very different to other sports. We think about expansion differently," NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said.

"This is not an exercise in us providing significant assistance from the centre, financial or through concessions or otherwise.

"Expansion needed to happen when we believe we can have a team that can compete from year one, from 2023.

"It was very important for us to see there was a clear plan for this team to be successful straight away on the field and off the field."

NRL boss Andrew Abdo is confident the Dolphins have the plan in place to compete well in the NRL when they join the league in 2023. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
NRL boss Andrew Abdo is confident the Dolphins have the plan in place to compete well in the NRL when they join the league in 2023. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

History shows that new teams have found it difficult early, with the average wait for a premiership at 20 years.

Melbourne are the big exception to that rule, reaching the finals in their first season and winning a premiership the next.

Part of the Redcliffe bid team's proposal included names of potential heads of football, coaches and recruitment managers, adamant they could build a strong squad.

"We have looked at the depth of players, the state cup and over time a team developing their own talent and the natural market place movement," Abdo said.

"They have demonstrated to us how they would go about building a team.

"Who they would contract first up from a non-playing perspective to help them go about contracting.

"It's a very detailed plan on how that will get built and what parameters that will operate in."

With AAP

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