Wayne Bennett has issued Valynce Te Whare an ultimatum after he returned to pre-season training 'too heavy'. The Dolphins coach has stood down the 23-year-old and sent him to a personal boot camp in an attempt to save his NRL career.
Te Whare has been ordered to spend a fortnight with trainer Mark 'Chopper' Burgess in Brisbane's humid heat, with Bennett telling the youngster he must lose around 10kg before he is allowed to return to the training group. The Dolphins centre enjoyed a breakout season in 2023 and quickly became a fan favourite on the back of his strong running game and big personality but his future in the NRL is now in jeopardy.
Bennett warned Te Whare that if he isn't able to get his weight under control he will ruin his NRL career. "I've sent Val away to get fitter – that's the situation," Bennett told News Corp. "He came back to pre-season way too heavy and too unfit to play NRL at that body weight. He is doing no ball work with us at the moment, our priority is to get him fit, so I've asked (Mark) 'Chopper' Burgess to help out."
Te Whare's contract is set to expire at the end of 2024 and he is taking part in a rigorous training program under the guidance of Burgess in an attempt to shed the necessary weight. Burgess is a highly-respected conditioner who has worked with some of Australia's top stars. He has the Dolphins centre training twice a day, which includes running Mount Coot-Tha's steep hills.
"At this level, you can't carry too much extra weight, not the way the game is played now," Bennett said. "You can't hide out there – you need a huge amount of fitness to make it in the NRL. Val reminds me of Dave Taylor - a former Broncos and Queensland Origin forward nicknamed 'The Coal Train'."
Ezra Mam emerges as Dolphins' top target
The Dolphins are cashed-up and Wayne Bennett has his set his sights on Brisbane’s grand final hero Ezra Mam as part of a $3 million recruitment drive. The NRL super coach has put Mam at the top of his wish list after the Broncos star was awarded the Dally M five-eighth of the year on the back of a stellar season.
Mam hit the open market for 2025 and beyond earlier this month and Bennett confirmed the Dolphins are keen to lure him to Redcliffe. "He was the best player on the ground in the grand final," Bennett said. "If he comes onto the market, we would certainly be interested. We have four halves who can play there, but Ezra is a quality player. There is a lot of upside in him.
"For a guy like Ezra, there’s probably eight other clubs too who are keen, so it does become challenging to get a guy like that. But if he is available, we’ll be in the mix. We’ve signed three or four guys from the Broncos. I’m not looking at what club a guy is at, I’m just looking at whether a player has the qualities we need and Ezra can certainly add something to us."
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