For Herman Ese-ese, joining the squad at Dolphins HQ is a ‘homecoming’ of sorts, returning to greater Brisbane and to Head Coach Wayne Bennett.
Speaking to the media after Monday’s training session, he said he was happy, but knew he had plenty of work to do this preseason.
The international prop comes to Redcliffe on a one-year contract from the Gold Coast Titans.
Ese/ese has been a Test player for New Zealand and Samoa, and played for the Bulldogs, Broncos and Knights.
He will add more than 100 matches of experience to the Dolphins’ roster, an important factor in the first year in the NRL.
Born in New Zealand, Ese’ese moved to Brisbane and was recruited by the Bulldogs for their under-20s team.
He played one NRL match for the Bulldogs before signing with the Broncos and establishing himself as a regular first grader in 2016.
Ese’ese played 13 matches for the Titans in 2022, has represented Samoa six times and made his Test debut for the Kiwis in 2018.
He says he played his best football while with the Broncos and Bennett, and he’s keen to do that again for the Dolphins.
“It kinda feels like home, being back under Wayne and playing my best footy again… I want to find that form and I know Wayne’s the man to get that out of me,” Ese’ese said.
He agrees his best season was in 2017, under Bennett’s tutelage and with the guidance of the team’s senior players.
“I think it was the playing group I had around me as well. I was only 21 years old and having guys like Corey Parker, Matt Gillett, Sam Thaiday and Alex Glenn … a lot of senior boys to look up to and to learn from. Now, I’m a lot older (28), I have to take that responsibility on now,” he said.
Assistant Coach Nathan Fien said he was already doing that.
“He’s experienced and you could see out there in that first session … just his talk with some of the younger more inexperienced players. He can just bring them up and set the standard there,” he said after his first training session with the squad on Monday.
There are familiar faces on and off the paddock for Ese’ese - coaching staff, off-field staff and former teammates Edrick Lee, Jamayne and Jarrod Wallace.
So, what will make the Dolphins’ side successful?
“Building that camaraderie being a new team, obviously working hard in preseason and getting those combinations going,” he said.
He’s confident he can play his best footy at his new club.
“They got me really fit at the Broncs and that’s what they’re doing now. It’s the same training program, I’ve shed a few kilos already. I’ll get fit and ready to go,” he said.
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