The NRL season to date has been one full of surprises, and anyone who claims they tipped the ladder as it stands after six rounds is flat out lying.

There is little doubt around just how good it has been for the game.

After years of domination by a handful of select clubs, it's the turn of teams like the Brisbane Broncos, New Zealand Warriors and Gold Coast Titans to be sitting at the right end of the table.

Some may have called one or two of those teams getting off to a hot start in 2023, but few were seeing anything of note coming out of the NRL's newest club in the Dolphins.

A widely slammed recruiting period which saw the club seemingly lurch from disaster to disaster as marquee players turned their back on Wayne Bennett and his new staff in Redcliffe left suggestions that the Dolphins would join the fight for the wooden spoon.

I'm not going to lie - I had the Dolphins fighting to get out of the bottom four myself.

Fast forward to the end of Round 6 though, and despite an enormous injury toll making itself known on the Dolphins, they sit in fourth place, not having had a bye yet with four wins from their six games.

From the opening moments of their existence as an NRL team, they had all the hallmarks of a well-coached outfit. Disciplined, well-drilled and defending outstandingly.

Through six rounds, they have only conceded an average of a tick over 21 points per game, which is well and truly a good enough mark to wind up in the top eight at the end of the season - of course, that isn't the best in the league, but this is a team who just keep getting the job done.

While the Dolphins brought plenty of experience into a forward pack that was always going to be able to hold its own, the questions mounted over their spine.

Instead of managing to sign the likes of Kalyn Ponga (possibly a major headache avoided anyway) and Brandon Smith, they wound up with a spine which read Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Isaiya Katoa, Sean O'Sullivan and Jeremy-Marshall King.

A fullback who had been forced to come off the bench behind Scott Drinkwater last year, a rookie half, Penrith's back-up option and a stop-gap dummy half who had become a permanent one, albeit for the worst-performing outfit in the NRL over the recent seasons.

Then you add in the injuries. O'Sullivan is out, Katoa has missed time, and the back-up Anthony Milford is out.

It was simply never supposed to work.

NRL Rd 4 - Dolphins v Broncos

But the beauty of Wayne Bennett's coaching has come to the fore over the opening six rounds, and it's a record that so easily could have been five wins and a loss without a narrow heartbreak at the hands of the Brisbane Broncos.

In truth, the only team that has beaten them convincingly are the St George Illawarra Dragons - and that game was an anomaly for that club. The timing of it was a horror show for the Dolphins, coming off injuries and into a let down.

It's the sort of let down a premiership side won't have, but by Bennett's own admission during the pre-season, the Dolphins were never supposed to be a premiership hopeful this year - they may well be a top eight one though if form continues along the current trajectory.

While that unheralded spine has performed beyond its wildest expectations, the performances of Jeremy Marshall-King and Isaiya Katoa have proven beyond all reasonable doubt that Bennett is still the best coach in the game.

Most will undoubtedly point to the success of Ivan Cleary, Craig Bellamy and Trent Robinson as the best in the game, but none of those three coaches (maybe outside Cleary) have done what Bennett has done.

Gone to a battling (or in this case new) club, and turned them into a success with a roster that says you shouldn't be able to.

Marshall-King, earlier in his career was a half. Not a hooker. A half.

And yet, based on form over the first six weeks, it's difficult to not rate him as the form dummy half in the competition, so good he has been.

His defence was acknowledged as the big improvement during his time at the Bulldogs, but now his attack is making fans sit up and take notice with four try assists in four appearances. He is also averaging 83 metres per game. There is no surprise that the Dolphins lost to the Broncos without Marshall-King.

"He's an important part of our team," stand-in captain Mark Nicholls said during the press conference after the win over the Cowboys last Friday.

"He's an international player. He's a good player and gets the forwards on the front foot.

"I think both middles tonight were pretty buggered. It was pretty hot and humid, and if you turn over the ball and have to defend it makes it hard. Contrasting halves, but we were able to do enough in the end to get the win."

Then there is Katoa.

The story of this kid will be told time and time again, but he came to the Dolphins expecting to play QLD Cup to start the campaign after exiting the Penrith Panthers' system where he was going to be stuck behind Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai.

The Panthers were - understandably - frustrated to lose the young talent, and made plenty of noise in the media.

That showed exactly his potential, and it's potential he is realising far quicker than anyone would have thought.

A lot of that has to go down to Bennett. The mere fact his defence has been up to NRL standard shows the mentality of this team, and that, in truth, has always been Bennett's greatest strength.

Dolphins Training Session

The veteran coach is a people person. The fact he was able to get that Newcastle Knights side to a preliminary final during his time there, break the St George Illawarra Dragons' premiership curse, and continually make the South Sydney Rabbitohs a premiership-hopeful side proves his ability.

But nothing will come close to what he has achieved with the likes of Katoa at the Dolphins.

"He's a good young kid," Nicholls said.

"The thing I like the most about him is that he is calm. As a halfback, he is calm and he directs the forwards around the field. He isn't afraid to tell us what he wants us to do for him and he never seems to get flustered.

"He is going great for a young kid."

This is a club who are all buying into the Bennett way of thinking. Do the hard yards and the game becomes easy.

Bennett has a way of getting the best out of every player he coaches, and if there is a better example than Marshall-King and Katoa's form to start 2023, it'll be tough to find.