Dolphins NRL: Bennett on round one

Published 11:25am 9 March 2024

Dolphins NRL: Bennett on round one
Words by Kylie Knight

Dolphins NRL Head Coach Wayne Bennett has not given his players a month to prove themselves, as he did last season, saying they know what is expected starting with tomorrow’s clash with the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium (3.05pm kick-off).

In his first press conference for the 2024 season, Bennett said positions were not locked in for a month – a strategy he applied in the club’s inaugural season to ease the pressure on players and allow them to settle in as a new squad.

“They’ve been together for 12 months, so they know each other much better now. The plan is to go out there and do our best tomorrow and go from there,” he said.

“They’ve been very good in the preseason, an easy group of guys to work with. I think they’re all well-prepared. I don’t think there’s anyone on that team that hasn’t been committed to what we’ve done in the preseason. That’s a good starting point for us.”

The players also know what he expects of them when they face the Cowboys tomorrow.

“Be highly disciplined with the football – don’t give away penalties. That does more for your game plans this time of year than anything else,” he said.

Bennett said he was delighted to have Tom Flegler in the team, who has developed as a player since he coached him as a young player at the Broncos, but it will take him a little while to settle in.

“I think there’s a little bit of time before we see the best of Tom. We know he’s going to make a difference to us,” he said.

Another player who has matured since making his NRL debut last year and putting in the hard yards during the preseason is Max Plath.

His efforts and skills as a utility player have been rewarded with a spot in the round one team, but Bennett dismissed a suggestion Plath was a ‘chip off the old block’ – a reference to his father John who played for the Broncos in the ‘90s.

Bennett said both Max’s parents had done a great job with him and he’s a wonderful young man.

“If he’s the future of rugby league, we’re in great shape,” Bennett said.

Dolphins NRL: Bennett on round one

Reward for effort

Tesi Niu has also been rewarded for his attitude to training and commitment to getting in shape, losing 8kg.

“Jake (Averillo) has been really good too (during the preseason). It was a tough decision,” Bennett said.

“He (Tesi) showed us he really wanted to be in the team. He played great in the trials and he’s performing well – his training has been outstanding.”

The Dolphins’ Mr Fix-it for 2023, Kodi Nikorima, will play in the halves with Sean O’Sullivan,

“He was close to our best player last year in terms of the whole season. He didn’t start the (2023) season with us. I put him up with the Capras but when he came back, he played great footy,” Bennett recalled.

“He played three or four positions for us at different times. I just though he had to be in the team.”

Tomorrow’s game will be The GOAT Mark Nicholls’ 150th in the NRL.

“He’s a great story, Mark Nicholls. I’ve coached a lot of wonderful players and wonderful men and he’s in that category.

“He’s just a great career story. He’s one of the first players I recruited here because I wanted him here. I wanted to show the young players you don’t have to have a lot of brilliance about you to achieve wonderful milestones and be a very valued player. Mark’s done all that.”

As for what the Super Coach will do next in his career – he’s not letting on and he said it would not be a distraction for him or his players this season.

One thing is for certain … he’s not ready to retire.

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