Hailing from 'the', the NRL finally has its 17th franchise entering the competition - the Dolphins.

Based out of Redcliffe, Wayne Bennett has taken the reins of Queensland's fourth NRL outfit, and don't they have a task ahead of them.

While they've managed to nab a handful of young, exciting talent, namely former Cowboys Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Tom Gilbert, the Dolphins have managed to miss every single marquee player they've chased.

Brandon Smith, Kalyn Ponga, Reece Walsh, Cameron Munster, Dylan Brown, you name it, they missed it, often used as a leverage point to squeeze extra money from the transfer market.

This rag-tag team of fringe first-graders and veterans late in their NRL careers have been widely tipped for the bottom four or worse, however there's something about Bennett that leaves some hope in the tank for the club's maiden season.

Recruitment Report

Ins: Euan Aitken (New Zealand Warriors, 2024), Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne Storm, 2024), Kenneath Bromwich (Melbourne Storm, 2025), JJ Collins (2023), Herman Ese'ese (Gold Coast Titans, 2024), Poasa Faamausili (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2023), Trai Fuller(2023), Tom Gilbert (North Queensland Cowboys, 2025), Oliver Gildart (Sydney Roosters, 2023), Cody Hunter (2023), Jamayne Isaako (Brisbane Broncos, 2025), Robert Jennings(Penrith Panthers, 2025), Isaiya Katoa (2025), Felise Kaufusi (Melbourne Storm, 2025), Brenko Lee (Brisbane Broncos, 2024), Edrick Lee (Newcastle Knights, 2024), Connelly Lemuelu (North Queensland Cowboys, 2024), Jeremy Marshall-King (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2024), Anthony Milford (Newcastle Knights, 2024), Mark Nicholls (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2024), Kodi Nikorima (New Zealand Warriors, 2024), Tesi Niu (Brisbane Broncos, 2023), Sean O'Sullivan (Penrith Panthers, 2025), Ray Stone (Parramatta Eels, 2024), Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (North Queensland Cowboys, 2024), Valynce Te Whare (2024), Mason Teague(2025), Setu Tu (2023), Jarrod Wallace (Gold Coast Titans, 2024)

Outs: N/A

Dolphins Training Session
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 24: Coach Wayne Bennett talks to his players during a Dolphins NRL training session at Kayo Stadium on January 24, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Recruitment impact

The Dolphins recruitment has been underwhelming to say the least, with a host of players that spent big chunks of 2022 off the field or in reserve grade making up the squad.

Tabuai-Fidow and Gilbert are the big fish, both debuting for Queensland over the past two seasons, while uncapped youngsters Isaiya Katoa, Harrison Graham and Valynce Te Whare are the future of this club.

However, while the likes of Felise Kaufusi, Kenny and Jesse Bromwich and Mark Nicholls are all on the wrong side of 30 and in the twilight of their careers, they all come from strong systems that have consistent success. It's players like these that set the standards, on and off the field, and that's were success begins.

Key talking points

How will the Dolphins fare in their first season?
It's a broad question, but the most important of all, where will the Dolphins sit on the ladder at the end of the regular season?

The last team to enter the competition, the Gold Coast Titans in 2007, finished 12th and 13th in their first two seasons, and arguably had a much-improved recruitment drive compared to 'little brother' the Dolphins.

They aren't going to win the competition in their first year, there's a high chance they miss the eight, but the dreaded spoon? It's hard to tip it with Bennett at the helm.

Where does Isaiya Katoa fit into the side?
Discussed earlier in the week at Zero Tackle, Katoa plays with calmness and composure well beyond his years, so where does he figure into this Dolphins outfit?

A halves pairing of Anthony Milford and Sean O'Sullivan is all but locked in for their Round 1 clash against the Roosters, and Kodi Nikorima has a short-term mortgage on the bench utility role, leaving Katoa to languish in Queensland club.

However, if the club start slow and fall out of finals contention in the final six weeks of the season, what's there to lose by blooding the former Panther.

Tonga v Papua New Guinea: Rugby League World Cup
ST HELENS, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: Isaiya Katoa of Tonga lines up a conversion during Rugby League World Cup 2021 Pool D match between Tonga and Papua New Guinea at Totally Wicked Stadium on October 18, 2022 in St Helens, England. (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images for RLWC)

Will the ageing forwards stand up?

The Dolphins will carry at least five forwards aged 30 or older into their Round 1 line-up in the Bromwich brothers, Felise Kaufusi, Mark Nicholls and Jarrod Wallace, which has come heavily under fire.

'They're old, they're washed up, it's a retirement home'.

There's a lot of younger forwards joining the Dolphins, and whilst those older guys aren't the players they used to be, they bring experience, leadership, Wayne Bennett isn't relying on them to make the big plays as much as relies on the to set the example.

These are the pillars that will inspire the younger forwards, and players like Tom Gilbert and Ray Stone, to step up as leaders after the older guys retire. It's all about establishment.

Star player: Sean O'Sullivan
The side is without a marquee signing or superstar, but Sean O'Sullivan is the player all their attack will channel through.

Described as 'the smartest player in the comp' by Andrew Johns, it's hard to call a halfback at his fifth club in six seasons the star, however O'Sullivan would've learnt a great deal under Nathan Cleary, it's time to see how O'Sullivan leads as the go-to-guy.

NRL Rd 2 - Dragons v Panthers
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 18: Sean O'Sullivan of the Panthers offloads the ball during the round two NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Penrith Panthers at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on March 18, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Player under pressure: Anthony Milford
While Sean O'Sullivan stars, his halves partner Anthony Milford couldn't be more nervous.

It's been nearly half a decade since we've seen Milford at his consistent best, showing glimpses at Newcastle last year, although it seems his 'rocks and diamonds' performances are set to continue.

He set up tries and was sent to the bin in his first 40 minutes as a Dolphin, with Isaiya Katoa breathing down his neck, the pressure is well and truly on.

Breakout Star: Valynce Te Whare
A thick frame and dazzling footwork, it's a matter of when, not if, Valynce Te Whare earns his shot in the NRL.

Turning 23 at the backend of the season, Te Whare isn't an out-and-out youngster, but he is ready to burst onto the first-grade scene and steamroll opposition centres.

While Tesi Niu and Euan Aitken will start the year as the three-quarters, learn the name and learn it fast, Valynce Te Whare will be eye-catching from the get go.

2023 Draw impact

The Dolphins will travel the fourth-most out of any NRL club this season, spending approximately 41 hours on a plane this season heading to-and-from games.

The majority of their draws lie around the Origin period, sitting out Rounds 11, 16 and 21, and could lose both Felise Kaufusi and Tom Gilbert to the Maroons, as well as potentially Tabuai-Fidow.

Half of their regular season games are on a Saturday in 2023, not following the Broncos' footsteps of claiming the Friday night clashes - yet.

Fixtures to watch

1. Round 1 vs Sydney Roosters, Suncorp Stadium, 4:05pm AEDT, Sunday March 5
It's the first match in the Dolphins existence, it has to top the list.

Both clubs will celebrate rugby league immortal Arthur Beetson in the opening round fixture, with the new NRL franchise starting as rank outsiders for the clash.

However with the Roosters having Luke Keary, Joseph Manu and Angus Crichton in varying levels of doubt, you never know what rabbit Bennett could pull out of the hat.

2. Round 4 vs Brisbane Broncos, Suncorp Stadium, 8:05pm AEDT, Friday March 24

Their first clash against 'big brother' Broncos, this match-up is already being titled the Battle for Brisbane.

Wayne Bennett has a good record over the Broncos since being sacked at the end of 2018, and carrying former Broncos in Jarrod Wallace, Anthony Milford, Tesi Niu and Kodi Nikorima, this is more than your average regular season clash.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: Anthony Milford of the Broncos looks to pass during the round four NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium on March 25, 2016 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

3. Round 12 vs Melbourne Storm, Suncorp Stadium, 7:35pm AEDT, Saturday May 20th

There's sure to be a hint of bad blood between these two outfits when they meet for the first time, and the only time they'll face off in 2023.

The Bromwich brothers and Felise Kaufusi will play the Storm for the first time in their careers, while Wayne Bennett will still have some angst over Cameron Munster never calling him to formally reject the Dolphins offer.

Expect some fireworks in their first clash.


Jack Blyth
The Dolphins have assembled what many have described as a mediocre side destined for the wooden spoon, but there's more than meets the eye here.

Wayne Bennett is a master coach that will squeeze every ounce of talent from this team, and while the forward pack is ageing, those veterans will be the pillars the club's training standards are built on.

They won't play finals, but they won't finish bottom four either. A slow start for the new franchise is assured, but it's a great foundation for the future.


Dan Nichols
Heading into 2023, I'm not expecting a whole lot from the NRL's newest club. That said, they have some of the game's brightest stars in Katoa, Te Whare and the Hammer.

Wayne Bennett failed to land that big star but given his record of getting more out of players than most other coaches, all is not lost.

There's almost no chance the Dolphins play Finals Footy in year one but they possess a better squad than at least three established sides. Should be fun but I see them topping out at maybe six to seven wins.


Scott Pryde
The Dolphins have the potential to perform a lot better than the majority expect, but there are too many questions around the squad to suggest they will compete for finals.

Isaiya Katoa has the potential to be something of an X-Factor for Wayne Bennett's side, and the likes of Tabuai-Fidow and O'Sullivan will give them something in the spine.

Still, it'll be a difficult first year.


Zero Tackle calculator: 14th.

Zero Tackle's calculated prediction is the average tip of all three tipsters, with the lowest average the minor premiers, and the highest average the wooden spooners.