Despite only being founded in 2023, The Dolphins have reportedly emerged as the surprising frontrunner to take one of the four spots in next year's Las Vegas season-opener.

It is understood that the Penrith Panthers are all but certain to headline the extravaganza next season after missing out earlier this year and winning the last three NRL premierships.

This would see three spots available to the remainder of the NRL teams, but some did not lodge formal submissions before the deadline.

According to News Corp, The Dolphins have emerged as the favourite to represent Queensland after the North Queensland Cowboys withdrew interest and the Broncos and Titans did not lodge formal submissions.

Considered favourites at the time to represent Queensland, the Cowboys withdrawal came as a shock, especially considering their good start to the season.

“We are interested,” Dolphins CEO Terry Reader said.

“We have sent the information the NRL asked for by the due date.

“Our interest is, of course, based on the assumption that the terms and conditions from the NRL to participate will be sufficient to ensure the Dolphins are not worse off for participating, both financially and around our footy program.

“We are still yet to see any of that detail from the NRL in the process so far.

The Dolphins have already shown that we are willing to take matches to expanding markets by playing a match in Perth last year and again this year.”

Set to represent Queensland, this means that there is likely only one spot available after the Panthers and Melbourne Storm are also likely to be in the United States for the season-opener.

NRL Pre-Season Challenge Rd 1 - Dolphins v Titans
SUNSHINE COAST, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 18: Kurt Donoghoe of the Dolphins in action during the NRL Pre-season challenge match between the Dolphins and Gold Coast Titans at Sunshine Coast Stadium on February 18, 2024 in Sunshine Coast, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“We were keen to go but we've decided not to put in a submission,” Cowboys boss Jeff Reibel said.

“I called the NRL and explained the reasoning from our perspective.

“I want to make it clear we are totally supportive of the NRL's strategy for Vegas.

“We are certainly keen to go in 2026, so the next 12 months will give us a longer runway to work with our commercial partners to ensure that when we do eventually go to Vegas, it will benefit all our stakeholders.

“I was over there this year and there's no doubt it was a wonderful experience. My feedback to our board was we needed to be part of this, but we also need to be prepared for it, because going to Vegas does come with a lot of logistical planning.

“I really hope the concept is here to stay and we're hoping the NRL has the Cowboys part of Vegas in 2026.”