Dolphins NRL: Euan Aitken to ‘take opportunity with both hands’

Published 2:26pm 14 March 2024

Dolphins NRL: Euan Aitken to ‘take opportunity with both hands’
Words by Kylie Knight

Dolphins NRL backrower Euan Aitken will grab the opportunity to cement his spot in the starting side with both hands when the team takes on the Dragons at Redcliffe’s Kayo Stadium on Sunday (5.15pm kick-off).

Aitken wasn’t picked for the team which lost 43-18 to the Cowboys in their round one clash, instead lining up for the Central Queensland Capras against the Western Clydesdales in the Queensland Cup on Saturday. He scored a try in the 30th minute for the Capras who won 28-10.

“I’m feeling really good. I went back to the Capras, worked on my game, I thought I played pretty good football out there, now I get my opportunity this weekend against the Dragons,” Aitken said after training today.

“I just want to do my role for the team and hopefully we can come away with a win.

“The desire’s there to play 80 minutes for this team, the Dolphins. I wanted nothing more than to get back in this side and now I’ve got to play some good footy that helps the team get some wins.”

Aitken is one of those players who Head Coach has spoken to individually about his expectations this weekend.

“He’s spoken to a lot of the people in the team. He said, ‘with Connelly (Lemuelu) out (injured), it’s my role to earn now’. I’ve just got to put my best effort in this weekend first and concentrate on doing what I need to do for the team to make sure we can get a win,” Aitken said.

“For me, (Bennett wants me to) protect my inside shoulder, (generate) line speed and get my defence right and to make sure I have some great carries off the back of our halves and to get into shape properly.”

Aitken will be looking to deliver and prove he deserves the spot permanently.

“You need to take that opportunity with both hands. Obviously, it’s unfortunate for Conns … everything happens quickly in football, so we need to move on and now it’s my opportunity to cement that spot,” Aitken said.

Dolphins NRL: Euan Aitken to ‘take opportunity with both hands’

Wielding the axe

Bennett’s changes to this weekend’s side have not just been to fill gaps caused by injuries to Lemuelu (knee) and Ray Stone (HIA), with Sean O’Sullivan and Tesi Niu dropped.

“It makes you a lot more accountable. We’ve got a great team, there’s plenty of depth in this team and he’s not scared to swing the axe if people are under-performing,” Aitken said.

“It puts us on notice, but at the same time it gives everyone else the opportunity to make sure they can play their best footy.”

Other beneficiaries of the changes include Isaiya Katoa and Jake Averillo.

“He (Katoa) is a great kid. He’s already had a year of first grade under his belt. It’s his second year now so he needs to take a step up with a bit of leadership and direction around the team, especially with Sean going – our halfback,” Aitken said.

“I’m looking forward to playing with Izzy and Avo (Averillo). They’re both really young players and they’re guns as well so they’re only going to keep getting better and better.”

Aitken agrees the Dolphins’ forwards were surprised by the pace of the first game and were on the back foot.

“It’s definitely something to address. If you get good line speed, you negate their attack a little bit and you end up putting them in their own end a bit more. It’s definitely important to do that and it’s definitely a focus for us this week,” he says.

He’s expecting the Dragons to come to Redcliffe full of confidence after their 28-4 win over the Titans in round one, but says it’s up to the Dolphins to nullify that and come away with a win in front of a packed Kayo Stadium.

Dolphins NRL: Euan Aitken to ‘take opportunity with both hands’


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