The Dolphins have expressed their disappointment and frustration, claiming that they were “used” by players and their managers during the recruitment process for the upcoming 2023 season. Despite initial skepticism from experts, the Dolphins have exceeded expectations and are currently only two points away from the top eight in the NRL ladder.
At the start of the season, many doubted the Dolphins‘ ability to perform without a “marquee” player who earns over $1 million a year. However, the team quickly silenced their critics by winning their first three games. Super coach Wayne Bennett faced challenges in assembling the squad, as they missed out on signing several high-profile players like Cameron Munster, Kalyn Ponga, Harry Grant, Reece Walsh, and Ryan Matterson. Munster, in particular, rejected the Dolphins‘ offer and opted to re-sign with the Melbourne Storm on a lucrative four-year, $4 million deal.
Nevertheless, the Dolphins remained determined and managed to secure the services of rising stars Tom Gilbert and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow on long-term deals. Additionally, Tom Flegler, Herbie Farnworth, and Jake Averillo are set to join the club in 2024. Despite the setbacks, the Dolphins‘ recruitment efforts have been focused on acquiring players who will contribute both on and off the field.
Dolphins CEO Terry Reader has spoken out about the challenges they faced during their recruitment process, highlighting that some players and their managers used the Dolphins as a bargaining tool while negotiating deals with other clubs. Reader acknowledged that securing big-name players can be a difficult task, as most players tend to stay loyal to their current clubs. Moreover, being a new club in the NRL presented its own unique set of challenges.
Despite the initial doubts and negative expectations surrounding the Dolphins, Reader expressed his pride in the team’s achievements. The club garnered significant support right from the start, with 32,000 fans attending their first game and 20,000 members signing up before they even played a match. Since then, the club has continued to grow, approaching 30,000 members and becoming the top-selling club in terms of merchandise.
Reader defended the Dolphins‘ recruitment strategy, emphasising that they have had a successful debut season in the NRL. He pointed out that the team has secured players with impressive credentials, including State of Origin representatives, premiership winners, and national team captains. Reader highlighted the signing of Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow as evidence of the Dolphins‘ ability to attract marketable and well-regarded players.
In conclusion, the Dolphins have defied expectations and emerged as a competitive force in their debut NRL season. Despite facing challenges and missing out on signing certain high-profile players, the Dolphins have built a strong squad that has surprised the competition. With a growing fanbase and solid recruitment strategies, the future looks promising for the Dolphins as they continue to make their mark in Australian sports. “Phins up” has become a widely recognised phrase, demonstrating the team’s rising popularity and success.