Dolphins’ NRL prop Mark Nicholls is the type of player Head Coach Wayne Bennett wants to build a club around.
The 32-year-old has followed his former coach and mentor to the NRL’s newest club and will reunite with former Storm teammates Kenny and Jesse Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi in the Dolphins’ foundation year.
“I know the three boys that are coming from Melbourne. I spent a couple of years down there. I know what they can bring. Forwards win games, as they say, but backs decide by how much,” Nicholls said during a press conference after training today.
“We’ll have to turn up every week as a pack and get on the front foot and play aggressively otherwise we’ll be in for a long year.”
He is excited to reunite with Bennett, whom he played for during his time at the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
“A few of the boys give me some stick about whether he’s my dad or not,” he says laughing.
“I didn’t know Wayne before he came to South Sydney. Obviously, all you see of Wayne is what you get in the media and sometimes he can look a little bit cranky. I noticed a lot of players that played under him spoke about as a father figure and how they loved their coach.
“I’d never had that relationship with a coach and thought it was a bit weird but when I got the old fella, I quickly realised that’s what he’s good at. He understands his players, he gets to know each player … what makes them tick, what they do away from the footy field … from there he just creates this relationship where you don’t want to let him down. It naturally brings out the best in you on the footy field.
“Wayne said to me, ‘ I think you’ve got a good two years in you’. It was an opportunity to create history and come and be a foundation player at this club.
“I’ve played for three Queensland Cup teams and played here a bit and always got flogged, so I knew the Dolphins’ brand and how strong they were as a footy team in Q Cup.
“I also had a chance to live here last year with the bubble. We got to the end of that three-month stint up here and my wife and I said, ‘we could sort of see ourselves living in Queensland’.”
Three months later, the opportunity presented itself in the form of text message from Bennett.
Laying a foundation
Nicholls understands how important his role is in creating a club culture that extends well beyond his playing days.
“I spent some time at the Raiders and the Storm … even then, they spoke about the guys who wore the first jersey … they didn’t at Souths, because they’ve been around too long. Those first guys, they set the culture and the standard. Not long after, both those clubs had success. It’s not lost on me that I’ll be a foundation player at this club,” he explained.
Bennett is pleased to have Nicholls in his squad.
“Mark is one of those understated players in the game. I always valued him since the day I went to Souths Sydney and I saw what he brought … like some of these young guys here at the moment … tremendous attitude, did things really well, very articulate,” he said.
“Is he one of the top athletes you’re ever going to see in your life? No, but he’s comfortable being Mark Nicholls and that’s confidence and that’s knowing he won’t let the team down and the job that he does.
“He’s just one of those guys you can trust and totally rely on and that’s what I brought him here for because I want to build a club on men like him.”
Dolphins' first official open training session
About 300 fans turned out for the Dolphins’ first official open training session at Redcliffe this morning as Wayne Bennett and his coaching team put the squad through their paces. Check out the photos and hear from the Head Coach and prop Mark Nicholls
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