Gilbert: Composure is key ahead of round one

Published 1:03pm 15 February 2024

Gilbert: Composure is key ahead of round one
Words by Kylie Knight

Tom Gilbert says he’s not feeling like a caged lion, waiting to be released, but he will need to temper his eagerness to get back into the action when he plays his first game for the Dolphins in more than eight months this weekend.

The 23-year-old prop is looking forward testing himself during the NRL’s Pre-Season Challenge, starting with the club’s first trial game against the Titans at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Sunday (5.15pm kick-off).

“The trial match at the weekend against the Titans, with the good side that we’re bringing, it’s exciting times for our 2024 campaign. But I need to build into my season well and I’ve got a really good opportunity this weekend and the following to get ready for round one,” Gilbert says.

He’s been in full training for 6-8 weeks following a season-ending shoulder injury suffered on May 31 during the State of Origin series opener. Surgery and a long period of rehabilitation followed.

“I’ve had a great preseason. I’m 100 per cent ready to go. I have been a for a few weeks which has been the pleasing thing,” he says.

“I’m very fortunate that I’ve come into a squad that’s really motivated and I’m picking up where I felt I left off.”

Gilbert says he feels physically and mentally confident, and fit, despite such a long time away from the game.

“I’m ready to go. I think it’s the fittest I’ve ever been to be honest. You say that every year though,” he says laughing.

“We’ve had some other blokes training really well which is driving not just the club’s standards but also made me really motivated to keep the pace with them as well.

That’s been really healthy … competition for this part of the year. It’s something that we’re really looking forward to see come to fruition come round one.”

Gilbert: Composure is key ahead of round one

Dynamic duo

One person helping drive his performance during preseason and ahead of the 2024 season is the other Tom, Dolphins’ newcomer Tom Fleger.

“He makes people around him better. If you get a player like him in the squad … I’m hoping that his form can make me better … playing off him, playing with him, combinations. Jeremy Marshall-King being back (from injury), that takes other people’s game to the next level (too),” he says.

Gilbert says he is working on having more composure, stepping up through the mid-field and playing a bit more attacking football.

“Defensively, I don’t know if I want to change too much but making sure I’m working hard and bringing the energy and the type of player that the team needs me to be that’s the biggest thing moving forward.

“I’ve got the two weeks to build into the season. I don’t have to be more than myself. Along the lines of what I’ve been working on in preseason is having that composure, having some real quality touches, being able to link up in the middle with the backs and stuff.

“Having someone like Flegler come join our team … he does that pretty well, so I’ve been able to learn off him really well.”

Gilbert: Composure is key ahead of round one

Big influence

In Gilbert’s view, the 24-year-old former Broncos prop who has signed with the Dolphins for four years, is ‘the bloke who’s going to take our team to the next level’.

“The way he is off the field, I think he’s already bringing the team together for a guy who’s met a lot of new people. He’s got a lot of time for other people and loves being around the team and loves being in a team environment,” Gilbert says.

“On the field, he’s going to be one of our best players. His game’s gone to another level last year. I think we’re getting him at the right time. I think he’s coming to the peak of his career.

“It’s been awesome to see someone who plays the game tough, plays the game smart, wants to win … it’s something really special and I think he’s the bloke who’s going to take our team to the next level. It’s not pressure on him. I think he’s excited for that role. We’re all excited to play with him.”

Another newcomer Gilbert is pleased to be playing alongside is Herbie Farnworth.

“He’s quicker than me. He’s got some real finesse to his game. He’s someone that takes a great carry out the backfield but also finishes tries,” Gilbert says.

“He’s got Jamayne Isaako, one of the best wingers in the comp from last year, outside him. I think they’ve been forming a really good edge and I’m really excited to see that work and some of the habits they’ve been building together coming to fruition this weekend.

“That’s what this weekend is about, showing some of our habits that we’ve been trying to drive in the preseason and Herbie’s habits have been awesome – finishing tries, competing hard, taking tough carries out the backfield.”

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