State of Origin and the suspension of Felise Kaufusi have forced Dolphins NRL Head Coach Wayne Bennett to make changes to his starting side for tomorrow night’s Round 13 game against the Dragons at Redcliffe (7.50pm kick-off).
Kodi Nikorima will make the switch from the halves to fullback with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow in Origin camp with teammate and workhorse Tom Gilbert.
Anthony Milford will play as five-eighth, partnering with halfback Isaiya Katoa. Herman Ese’ese will start at Prop, with Kenny Bromwich moving to the second row for the suspended Felise Kaufusi.
Ray Stone will play lock for Gilbert, while Mark Nicholls returns from a broken thumb on the interchange bench, where Mason Teague and Valynce Te Whare have also been added.
Poasa Faamausili has been named as 18th man.
See the photo gallery from training at the end of this story
Bennett is certain Nikorima will deliver in the No.1 jersey.
“He’s confident that he can do it. He’s happy to play there. He’s played there a fair bit over the years with the Broncos, Warriors and Souths,” Bennett explains.
“He plays half, five-eighth/hooker, in the centres for us two weeks ago and did a great job there against Cronolla. He’s one of the rare breed, he’s a football player and football players can play any position.”
Meanwhile the Super Coach is disappointed Kaufusi will miss the next three weeks due to suspension resulting from a grade-two careless high tackle charge out of last weekend’s 24-16 loss to the Storm.
Bennett says Kaufusi will need to adjust his style to play within the ‘framework’.
“You can be aggressive in the game … you can’t do the things that are going to put you before the judiciary,” he says.
“That’s being over-aggressive and that’s not what the game’s about.
“I’ve had a few chats (with him) … I would say, has he listened to them? He’s got great tackle technique. He just has to readjust his mindset about how he wants to play, that’s all – when he can be aggressive and when he can’t.”
Milestone for Isaako
Kayo Stadium will be a full house for Jamayne Isaako’s 100th game in the NRL and his coach is proud of how far he has come personally and as a player this season.
“It’s a bit hard to say who’s been our best but he’s in our top three players every week. I’m more proud of the way he’s come back. He was in a bad place the last couple of years,” Bennett says.
“The Jamayne we saw at 19 years of age … we hadn’t seen for quite a long time. He was one of the first players I recruited when I came here. I just knew if we put him in the right environment, he would flourish and that’s what he’s done.
“He has got the confidence back. He’s in a happy place. He’s enjoying what he’s doing.”
And he’s happy playing on the wing …
“He’s been through the mincing machine and he wants to be a winger. I generally ask the players most times what’s their preferred position. He just came out and said: ‘coach, I want to play on the wing’,” Bennett explains.
“That’s why he’s not fullback this week … he’s doing a great job (on the wing).
“He just knows what he wants. He knows where he can play his best football and he knows where he’s happy. You put all those together and we see a reborn Jamayne Isaako.
“His goal kicking has been exceptional as well.”
Origin stars ready
Bennett believes Dolphins’ State of Origin stars Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Tom Gilbert have earned their places in the side which will take on the Blues next Wednesday night (May 31).
“I think they picked a really good team … a team of the future for Queensland. Dane (Gagai) has been a wonderful, wonderful player for Queensland but he’s at the end of his career. We’re short of centres … if it wasn’t this year for Hamiso, it had to be next year,” Bennett says.
As for Tom Gilbert, in Bennett’s view he’s ‘made for Origin’.
“He’s fearless. He doesn’t care, he sacrifices himself for the team. They’re pretty unique those blokes,” he says.
“If I was Queensland coach, Tom Gilbert would be the first half a dozen guys picked for me.”
The Dragons beat the Dolphins 38-12 in their Round 5 encounter in Wollongong during a performance Bennett describes as their worst this season.
“We’ve just got to worry about ourselves and turn up (on Thursday night). We didn’t turn up in Wollongong that day,” he says.
The game at Kayo Stadium against the Dragons is sold out. Kick-off is at 7.50pm.
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