Dolphins NRL Assistant Coach Kristian Woolf says the Pre-season Challenge will be crucial in determining the round one team, with tight competition for positions in the halves and up front.
He spoke to Moreton Daily about how the squad is looking and if he thinks they’ll be playing finals footy this season.
Woolf says the squad is in good shape and players have been training hard in the heat since their return after the Christmas break.
“They’ve done a really good job in how they’ve looked after themselves, how they’ve come in to start the preseason, how they’ve come back after Christmas. That personal accountability is really important for them,” he says.
The man who will replace Wayne Bennett at Head Coach in 2025, agrees intensity has ratcheted up this preseason, building on the foundations laid in the club’s inaugural season.
“I think the big difference is that we’ve got a base already. There’s a general understanding of how we’re attacking, how we’re going to defend, just how things function around the club outside of training as well as at training,” Woolf explains.
“With that understanding, I think that does mean that we can challenge the group a little bit more and ask for more intensity. They’ve responded really well to that.”
Woolf says the club’s new recruits have slotted in easily.
“Herbie Farnworth, Tom Flegler, Jake Averillo … they’re the more noted new guys … they’ve all settled in really well. They’re great players. They’re good characters around the group, they’ve made a real effort to be part of the group. They’ve already got respect, when they walk in, because everyone knows they’re good players and knows they’re going to add to what we’re doing.
“There’s a number of young guys who have come in and enhanced the place as well. They’ve come in fit, come in with a great attitude, come in and worked really hard … that makes the whole environment competitive.”
The NRL’s Pre-season Challenge will be crucial in determining who locks in a spot in the side to take on the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium in round one (March 10).
The Dolphins will face the Titans at Sunshine Coast Stadium on February 18 (5.15pm kick-off) and the Warriors in Auckland on February 24 (2.45pm kick-off) ahead of round one.
“The players get their opportunity to go and show that they deserve that position. If you look at our forwards, there’s a lot of competition in there and there’s a number of guys who are good players who may not be in the team for round one,” he says.
“We’re got four really good players in the halves as well, all doing a great job and really competing and looking after themselves. We’ve really added to that outside back quality as well as depth.
“There’s a lot of competition across the team and some good players who are going to miss out on the team. I think the players are acutely aware of that and it’s part of the environment that we’ve got at the moment.”
While there’s no single focus in the lead-up to round one, Woolf says the squad has been working on defence and how they can improve their attack, while building on fitness and speed.
“We definitely want to improve on last year. We weren’t a mile off (finals) last year. We certainly fell away at the back end of the year … there’s a few reasons for that,” Woolf says.
“I think we’re very capable. If we keep all our best players on the field … I’m really impressed with what we’ve got there, in terms of a 1-17 that we can put together.”
Woolf says there is genuine depth this year and he believes the squad is capable of making the top 8.
“The first job is to put yourself in a position to get there and then we can talk about how we might do. We’ve certainly got those capabilities and we’ve got to make that happen,” he says.
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