There’s been a lot of talk in the media that the Dolphins need to land a big fish or two, and the rest will come.

Much like the Bulldogs signing Josh Addo-Carr kickstarted their 2021 signing spree, numerous pundits have claimed that signing a big name will inspire others to take a leap of faith and join the expansion side in 2023.

It’s been more than a month since all 2022 off-contract players hit the open market, and they’ve signed one player - a second-rower. While it’s a good start, Felise Kaufusi is hardly the player that’s going to draw crowds to their home games.

Perhaps the lure of Wayne Bennett isn’t quite what it was at power clubs like Souths or the Broncos, or perhaps recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan has refused to bite the bullet and pay ‘overs’ to secure his man.

Whatever the issue, the Dolphins need a catch, and soon, because the best offerings are rapidly being snapped up by their rivals.

After missing out on Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Patrick Carrigan and Brandon Smith only recently, the Dolphins need to secure their next target, and perhaps they need to invert their thinking to avoid further embarrassment. Inexpensively bring in smaller fish, and you’ll attract the big ones soon. But act quick, or there’ll be no more fish in the sea at all.

With few big-name stars still on the market for 2023, Reed Mahoney is the clear next choice as a young Queenslander, with the Dolphins having plenty of funds to offer him, provided he hasn't linked up with the Bulldogs.

The challenge is getting he and fellow Queensland star Kalyn Ponga to Redcliffe when other teams can offer stability and a lower, yet still attractive paycheck. They need to be convinced that they won’t spend the prime of their careers collecting wooden spoons.

NRL Rd 15 - Knights v Cowboys
NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 23: Kalyn Ponga of the Newcastle Knights runs the ball during the round 15 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the North Queensland Cowboys at McDonald Jones Stadium on August 23, 2020 in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

The great thing about expansion sides is that they can give new opportunities to bright young stars. If they sign players like Lachlan Lam and Phoenix Crossland in the halves, Parra youngster Haze Dunster and centre Herbie Farnworth, the team looks more promising.

No one wants to be a one-man show, and the promise of quality teammates might tilt the scale back in the Dolphins favour. Suddenly, everyone wants to have a fresh start at the Dolphins, building towards something new and exciting.

Once they sign some big names, they’ll need to balance their salary cap better, signing a few mid-price range players like Josh McGuire, Junior Paulo or Corey Harawira-Naera along with some journeymen and veterans.

Wayne Bennett has made many average players into stars under his tutelage, and will excel in transforming veterans like Corey Oates or Mitchell Dunn into big stars.

  1. Kalyn Ponga
  2. Haze Dunster
  3. Herbie Farnworth
  4. Tom Opacic
  5. Corey Oates
  6. Lachlan Lam
  7. Phoenix Crossland
  8. Junior Paulo
  9. Reed Mahoney
  10. Corey Harawira-Naera
  11. Felise Kaufusi
  12. Mitchell Dunn
  13. Josh McGuire
  14. Ray Stone
  15. Keenan Palasia
  16. Corey Horsburgh
  17. Braden Hamlin-Uele

While the Dolphins won’t win a premiership in their first season, they should still have the means to put in a respectable performance in 2023, provided they turn around their recruitment woes soon.

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