Woolf: ‘We’re going to be running things the way he wants’

Published 1:00pm 16 February 2024

Woolf: ‘We’re going to be running things the way he wants’
Words by Kylie Knight

Dolphins NRL Assistant Coach Kristian Woolf says he’ll be doing most of the talking to players when they take on the Titans in a trial game at the Sunshine Coast this weekend, but Head Coach will be keeping a close eye on things as he prepares to make decisions about some key positions before round one.

Woolf spoke to the media following today’s training session in the pouring rain at Redcliffe in the lead-up to the club’s trial game against the Titans on Sunday (5.15pm kick-off).

See the photos at the end of this story

The Dolphins will field a strong team, with 26 players expected to get a run, as Head Coach Wayne Bennett weighs up his options.

All available first grade players will have the opportunity to make their case for a spot in the team, with the exception of All Stars players and those nursing injuries. That list now also includes Ray Stone who will rest a minor foot complaint.

So, how will it work for the coaching team this weekend with Woolf officially coaching the team for the trial?

“I’m not sure actually. Wayne will be around somewhere. At the end of the day, he’s still the coach of the team, so we’re going to be running things the way he wants them, but I guess I’ll be doing most of the talking this week,” he says.

Woolf says he will be approaching the season in the same way he did last year, despite knowing he will be stepping into the top job in 2025.

“My job’s to support Wayne. It’s his team and make sure that we’re helping him however we can. In 12 months time, that will change but we’ve got to worry about what we’re doing this year and try to get some success this year first.”

He’s not expecting more responsibility this season as the club prepares to transition to life after Bennett.

“The job doesn’t change for another 12 months. My job’s to support Wayne, support what he wants as a Head Coach and that’s exactly what I’ll be doing,” Woolf says.

“His record speaks for itself. He’s great to work with, he’s very happy to pass on knowledge, he’s very happy to talk through different situations, he’s very happy to give us plenty of role and plenty of say with things as well.

“That’s not just myself. That’s Nathan (Fien) as well. That’s what makes him really enjoyable to work with. I think the confidence that he shows in us helps us be confident in ourselves as well.”

Woolf: ‘We’re going to be running things the way he wants’

Tough decisions ahead

The coaching team will be keen to see how the 2024 squad performs in the next few weeks at training and on the field.

“There’s plenty of decisions to be made after this weekend and next weekend. We’re playing 26 players this week which is obviously two teams,” Woolf explains.

“That gives everyone, who we think needs an opportunity, a really good opportunity. We’re obviously starting with a side which is a little bit more experienced and probably a little bit stronger.

“Everyone’s out there fighting for an opportunity at the moment. There’s a lot of positions up for grabs. I really like the look of the competition at the moment.”

Woolf says there is strong competition in the halves, forwards and backs.

“Who’s got their nose in front, we’ll see a little bit more of that this week,” he says.

“It’s a trial. We’re not showing all our cards and we’re not expecting them to go out and play like we’re going to round one but do want to see is blokes competing for their spots … putting their hand up and doing some things that say, ‘I need to be in that position’.

“There’s some things that we’ve worked on really hard through the pre-season, some effort areas, our defence.

“We thought we scored enough points last year, but we didn’t defend well enough for long periods in particular. We want to see some of those things that we’ve worked really hard on be done well in a game.”

The squad will head to New Zealand on Tuesday ahead of their final trial game in the NRL’s Pre-Season Challenge against the Warriors in Auckland.

They are arriving early, taking the opportunity to hold a mini camp before the season begins.

“It is just a great place just to get away, get away from everything in Australia and really spend time together as a group, and I guess work a little bit harder on what we are as a group as well,” Woolf says.

“We’re going to take that opportunity and I think it’s something everyone’s looking forward to.”

See the photos from training 

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