Dolphins NRL round 3 preview: Wayne Bennett

Published 12:30pm 16 March 2023

Dolphins NRL round 3 preview: Wayne Bennett
Words by Kylie Knight

During the NRL preseason, Wayne Bennett said he wouldn’t know where the Dolphins’ side was at until they played. They have played two games and won two, so where are they at?

We put the question to him at training this morning, ahead of the side’s first away game against Newcastle Knights tomorrow (5pm kick off).

“The challenge is to repeat it week after week. That’s our challenge this week. We know what we can do and we can do it better … some of the things we’ve done,” Bennett said.

|“Our challenge now is to stay at that process and make sure we don’t slacken off and think we’ve just got to turn up to get a victory.”|

He would not be drawn on how he has prepared his team to face Newcastle, but at training there appeared to be a focus on containing Dane Gagai who will celebrate his 150th game for the Knights on Friday.

“I don’t worry about the Knights. I’ve got a team here I’ve got to get right first,” Bennett said.

Dolphins NRL round 3 preview: Wayne Bennett
Kodi Nikorima

Dolphins’ team changes

The Dolphins will be without hooker Jeremy Marshall-King (suspension), who will be replaced by Kodi Nikorima.

Jarrod Wallace is also not making the trip to Newcastle for personal reasons. He will be replaced by Mason Teague.

Ray Stone will make his return much to the delight of his coach who said he’d love to have 17 Stones in his side.

“He just doesn’t know when he’s beaten. He’s got no idea, actually. He just tries his heart out,” Bennett said.

So, does he have 17 bokes with that attitude in his team?

“I think I have … or getting closer to it anyway. We wouldn’t have won the other night if they’d given up. We were 12-0 and the conditions as they were … it’s a credit to them,” Bennett said.

He’s pleased to be giving Nikorima a chance to run out in round three.

“It’s a good opportunity for Kodi. He’s a good player and person. I have a lot of time for Kodi. He’s got an opportunity now. He missed out on the first game. It’s game three now and he’s got an opportunity to stay there,” Bennett said.

Dolphins NRL round 3 preview: Wayne Bennett

Bennett on Dane Gagai

Bennett was full of praise for the Knights’ Gagai, who he has coached previously.

“Dane’s one of my favourite players. He’s always doing his best for you. He’s played wonderful games for Queensland, he’s a great competitor. That’s his biggest asset – he trains as hard as he plays. He doesn’t know any other way than to do his best,” Bennett said.

Gagai, a former Redcliffe Dolphin, said while the Knights' 150th game milestone was important, it was equally important to play well and work hard and he will be leading by example.

“It’s come around pretty quick, to be honest. (But) for me, it’s probably more about the guys who will be debuting this week and being able to do that at McDonald Jones (stadium) … there’s no better feeling, I’m sure,” Gagai said during a press conference yesterday.

The Knights are coming off a hard-fought 14-12 win over Wests Tigers and will be without many of their stars including skipper Kalyn Ponga.

Gagai said the team Bennett had put together was ‘based on effort’, players who work hard.

“They’ve shown in the last couple of games what they’re capable of,” he said.

“It’s going to be a cracker of a game.”

See the video from Dolphins' training

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