Kodi Nikorima has high hopes for the Dolphins as he sets out his stall ahead of their inaugural NRL campaign.
The NRL has increased from 16 to 17 teams, with the Dolphins the latest addition to the league structure. And Nikorima, who signed in a two-year deal last summer from the Sydney Rabbitohs wants to make a lasting impression.
More intriguingly, Nikorima will be reunited with Wayne Bennett, the coach that unleashed him onto the NRL scene, and gave him his formal debut in 2015.
And the 28-year-old Nikorima believes the Dolphins should be ambitious and he sees no reason why they can't finish in the top eight.
Speaking to NRL.com, Nikorima said: “Well, my goal every year is to win a premiership.
“I think that should be everyone's goal, but obviously, smaller steps would be to get into the top eight first and it all starts now.
“One hundred percent (we can aim for the top eight); we can't have the mindset of just making up the numbers. And I know Wayne will instill that into this group… and obviously, with Wayne, there's high standards there… but that's up to us as a team to buy into whatever he wants and apply that on the field.”
With the trade window currently open, the Dolphins are looking to add bodies to their squad, with Judah Rimbu, Rodrick Tai, Sherwin Tanabi, and Emmanuel Waine all landing train and trial deals. Tai, Tanabi, and Waine were involved in the Rugby League World Cup, and they will be given a chance to compete for a place on the Dolphins' roster.
The Dolphins appear to be making the right noises, but they will have a lot to do to try and shake things up and break into the top eight. Currently, reigning champions Penrith Panthers will be the team to beat after securing back-to-back Grand Final wins. Top FlexePIN betting sites like bet365 have placed the Dolphins at 8/1 to finish in the top eight which may throw a cat amongst the pigeons, but it would be noteworthy.
Before the new season gets underway in March, there is the small matter of the All-Star game next month, with Nikorima poised to line up for the Maori All Stars.
He added: “It's more than a game when we go into these camps.
“Obviously, learning more about my culture and just getting back to the Maori community and Indigenous community; being in Australia the last couple of years we've been able to learn about the culture too.”
While the bar may be set slightly lower for the Dolphins, it will be fascinating to see how they fare in their first NRL campaign.
Naturally, Nikorima is ambitious, and while he will face off against his brother, Jayden, in Round 12 against Melbourne Storm, he will want to lay it all on the field. The 2023 season could well be a white-knuckle ride that you won't want to miss out on.