Bennett not hoping for ‘miracles’

Published 11:52am 20 June 2024

Bennett not hoping for ‘miracles’
Words by Kylie Knight

Dolphins NRL Head Coach Wayne Bennett isn’t expecting miracles from Tevita Pangai Junior when he plays his first game for the club against the Storm tomorrow night, but he’s expecting more discipline from his other forwards than the last time they faced their old team.

“Last year … one of them gave away two penalties, the other one got a fine and the third fella got three weeks’ suspension,” Bennett said, referring to the Bromwich brothers and Felise Kaufusi, after training this morning.

“I just hope they’ve got it all out of their system. Now, we can just go out and play footy tomorrow night and won’t have to worry about guys being sin binned, penalised for doing stupid things and getting fines for poor behaviour on the field.

“I’m sure they learnt a lesson from that last year.”

Kaufusi is in State of Origin camp and won’t play, but both Bromwich brothers are raring to go. Fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow is also unavailable due to Origin duties, with Trai Fuller given an opportunity to shine.

“I’m pleased he (Fuller) is back. He’s got a great fullback in front of him, but he handles it well and does his best when he comes up and plays for us,” Bennett says.

As for the newest member of the team, Pangai Junior, Bennett is realistic in his expectations.

“I know what he can do, and I know what he’s got to give, but I’m not expecting all that tomorrow night. It’s his first game with us and he’s only been back playing three or four weeks … he had two or three games with Souths Logan,” he explains.

“I just want him to compete well and make sure he’s not missing his tackles and getting up playing the ball. Over the weeks, he’ll get better. I’m not looking for miracles from him tomorrow night.

“He’s had some games, he’s been boxing, so he’s in good shape. There’s no doubt about that. This is another level, but he’s played at this level most of his career so I’m sure he’ll handle it.”

There’s a long list of qualities Bennett loves about the 28-year-old.

“His physicality. He’s a big man, he’s very mobile for a big man. He knows the game really well and he’s got that mindset he can change a game and he knows that – a tackle he might make or a ball that he might steal, an offload that he can get away that no one else can get away. That’s all part of the package with him,” he says.

Bennett not hoping for ‘miracles’

This week’s top-four clash with the Storm comes as the Dolphins secure more key players with contract extensions.

Young outside back Jack Bostock will be a Dolphin until the end of the 2027 season and hooker Jeremy Marshall-King is locked in until the end of the 2028 season.

“I think we all know what they bring … look at their performances. That’s why they got an extension on their contracts. We want to keep them because of what they’re doing,” Bennett says.

“They’re young men, so it’s been pretty smart by the club. The players are happy here. It’s worked out great for them and for us. They’ve got some security in their life because being a football player’s not a real secure job, particularly if you’re not playing well.”

Marshall-King has consistently been a standout performer, much to Bennett’s delight.

“I just can’t understand the (Bulldogs) club letting him go, actually, at the time. I suppose it’s like life. If you’re not valued, then, there’s not much future for you. They obviously didn’t value what he brought.

“I was so pleased to get him here and I could see a lot of upside in him and he’s proven it … the upside’s come out and he’s played very well.”

Meanwhile Euan Aitken’s move to Souths, with Bennett, in 2024 appears certain.

“I understand that (he is going to Souths). I haven’t been told that officially, but I do understand that,” Bennett said.

See photos from training below

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