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.
It was a party atmosphere with music playing, a VIP section and the club’s mascot Phinny lapping it up.
Dolphins NRL CEO Terry Reader said fans started arriving at 6.30am and seeing them in the grandstand for the first time was a special moment.
“It shows the support behind the team already and the team’s only just started to get on the field,” he said
“It looks real when they’ve got the colours on. People were able to get their merchandise, it arrived in-store and they pre-ordered it and you see the number of people with the new Dolphins NRL kit on. I think that shows how real it is.
“The club is nothing without the fans and we’ve got a wonderful group behind us already and it’s only going to get bigger as we bring everything to life.”
Fans will get another chance to meet players and get excited about the NRL’s newest club during a fan day on this Saturday from 4pm at the Redcliffe Christmas Twilight Markets.
This morning’s event also announced Kayo Sports as the new naming rights partner of the club’s stadium at Redcliffe.
When asked how he planned to turn the stadium into a fortress, Head Coach Wayne Bennett said it came down to how the team performed from round one.
“The only way we’ll turn it into a fortress is by showing the fans we’re a committed football team and we’re doing the best for them. After that, the rest will look after itself. It doesn’t work that the fans get you up, you’ve got to get the fans up and get them excited,” he said.
Preseason report card
Bennett would not be drawn which players had already impressed him during preseason training.
“They haven’t played. I could go to every club in the NRL right now and find they’re all training pretty good but it’s about how you play. We’re not going to know that until March,” he said.
So, is he confident six weeks will be a long enough preseason before round one?
“If we handle it properly, we’ll really have eight weeks, by not playing them and committing them to games before the last preseason game. We’re banking on an eight-week preseason, starting on January 4,” he explained
“I’m not going to be here, if I’m not confident. I don’t care what they throw at us.”
In an ominous sign for players just getting into preseason groove and those still to arrive following World Cup duties, Bennett’s response to our question about what the training program from January 4 looked like was short and sharp.
“Tough. A place you don’t want to be,” he said.
Standing beside him was Prop Mark Nicholls, whom he asked to join the club via text.
Bennett said Nicholls would bring the type of attitude he was looking for in a foundation player.
“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.”
Bennett is still looking to fill five positions and there are no guarantees for players already at Dolphins HQ, with performance key to securing the number they want.
And full integration with the Dolphins club will be vital in success on the field in 2023 and beyond.
“This is not a club that’s just starting up. This is a club that’s been here for over 70 years and we’ve got to make sure we are integrated and all a part of that club. I’ll make sure we don’t have two groups … it won’t work. It’s a great club, it’s got a great history and we want to maintain that,” he said.
Training session photo gallery - click through
Photos by Dominika Lis
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