Valynce Te Whare's beautiful act after 'incredible' NRL debut for Dolphins

Plucked from rugby union obscurity in New Zealand, Valynce Te Whare delivered in spades for Wayne Bennett's 900th NRL game as coach.

Valynce Te Whare scores his first NRL try on the left, and is mobbed by celebrating Dolphins teammates on the right.

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett joked that Valynce Te Where made his NRL debut after he dreamed of doing so during a 'bad night's sleep' for the 76-year-old - but it was a decision that paid off in spades. Tabbed as a potential 'cult hero' by Dolphins teammates prior to his debut on Saturday against Cronulla, Te Whare made good on his promise with two tries in the Dolphins 36-16 victory.

Having been recruited by the Dolphins in 2021 from a rugby union background in New Zealand, Te Where only had the Dolphins' 2022 season in the Queensland Cup to get used to the 13-man game. The 22-year-old showed he was a fast learner when he made his NRL debut, scoring his first try after just 23 minutes of action.

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He helped the Dolphins put four tries on the board before the Sharks scored once, with the league's newest team delivering a fittingly powerhouse performance in Bennett's 900th game as an NRL coach. He would cross once again in the 51st minute, later joking that he needed assistance from his teammates as quickly as possible as he had started to cramp up.

The sensational debut clearly meant a lot not just to the 22-year-old but also his family, who had joined him from New Zealand after he took his rugby league leap of faith. He repaid their faith in him in some heartwarming scenes after the match, performing the haka in front of the crowd alongside a handful of teammates and family members.

“It is just a good feeling to be out on the paddock,” Te Whare said after the game. “It has been a hard journey. I only came over here at the start of last year and switching codes.

“I had nothing at home, so I just took the opportunity with two hands to come over here and did it for a year and just kept grinding and here I am. It was an unreal try. My second try I was cramping in the corner, so I was trying to get the boys to help me up quick.”

Meanwhile, fans on social media were loving what they saw from the hulking Kiwi in his NRL debut, with Dolphins veteran Jarrod Wallace's prediction Te Whare would emerge as a 'cult figure' proving to be on the money. Fans were thrilled to see someone with Te Whare's story find success.

Wayne Bennett praises Valynce Te Whare's 'big match psyche'

Bennett praised Te Whare as a player with a 'big match psyche', saying that although he had plenty of room to improve, particularly defensively, he had been pleased with what he'd shown on his first outing.

“We thought he was an investment into the future. We were looking for talent, and he is talented,” Bennett said. The veteran coach was then asked by a reporter why now was the time to bring him in for the injured Brenko Lee.

“Because I had a bad night’s sleep, and I made a decision,” Bennett quipped. “It was what I came up with, it was in the dream… I think we are going to find with Val he is a big match player and the bigger the occasion the better he will play.

“There’s just some players who have that kind of psyche and I think that’s part of his DNA.”

Valynce Te Whare is seen in the middle of a crowd of Dolphins teammates.
Valynce Te Whare was mobbed by Dolphins teammates after scoring two tries on his NRL debut. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Even Bennett himself could not have scripted the Magic Round fairytale at Suncorp Stadium, the scene of so many of his great wins. The Dolphins were almost perfect early and the Sharks had no answers.

"I did enjoy that," Bennett said of his team's performance. "We had three quality props out tonight and a couple of good backs missing. I just give guys a jersey ... and they get the job done. It is quite remarkable and a credit to them.

"There's a lot of trust there. I encourage them ... and trust them."

Bennett has instilled incredible belief within his players and has backed them to show their skill. The coach has rebooted careers of a suite of his players with wingers Jamayne Isaako and Tesi Niu, five-eighth Kodi Nikorima and prop Herman Ese'ese all playing their best football.

Te Whare had a shock and awe battle with opposite number Siosifa Talakai. Talakai got the better of him on occasions but the younger man refused to yield and had the last laugh.

With AAP

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