Wayne Bennett confirmed as Dolphins’ inaugural NRL coach

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<span>Photograph: Darren England/AAP</span>
Photograph: Darren England/AAP

Wayne Bennett has been officially unveiled as the Dolphins coach for the NRL expansion club’s first campaign in the competition in 2023, marking the second time in the veteran coach’s career he has taken the reins for a club’s foundation season.

Bennett will be expected to bring his wealth of experience to the Redcliffe-based club, who earlier this month beat off competition from fellow Brisbane bids the Jets and Firehawks to win the race to become the NRL’s 17th team.

Related: The Dolphins: NRL’s newest team well placed to make immediate impact | Nick Tedeschi

“I feel very privileged,” Bennett said. “At the start of the season I had no idea this would happen. It’s been quite a journey. I’m pleased to be back in Brisbane, pleased to be here.

“It wasn’t [about] dollars. [It was about] philosophy and wanted to make sure I was on the same page and vice versa. We have to be compatible because I can’t make it work by myself. I need all the support that sits here today so we’re on the same page.”

The 71-year-old took charge of the Brisbane Broncos in their foundation year in 1988 before guiding the side to a premiership four years later – the first of six he would win during a 20-year spell at Suncorp Stadium.

“This is an established club,” Bennett said of the Dolphins. “And I recognise that it’s my job to come in here and work within this framework. When we started in 1988 at the Broncos ... we had no club, we had no ground, we had virtually nothing.

“But it’s a wonderful, wonderful facility here. Extremely well run, very successful. So it’s a different context. The job’s still the same but a different context.”

Bennett holds the record for the number of grand finals won – with the seventh coming in 2010 with St George Illawarra Dragons – and was the first coach to lead four different teams to a title decider.

His most recent grand final appearance – the 10th of his career – came earlier this month when his South Sydney Rabbitohs were narrowly beaten by the Penrith Panthers.

The Dolphins are the first club to join the NRL since the Gold Coast Titans in 2007. Bennett will be able to begin building his next squad once the club becomes eligible to sign players from 1 November.

The club has already been linked with some big names, including Cameron Munster, and Kalyn Ponga, but Bennett said a club’s culture was more important to him than individual talent.

“You’ve got a $9.5m salary cap and you know you have to get some marquee players and that will be our priority and build the other players around them,” he said.

“Obviously I want to bring the good players here but there’s more than just me that will bring them here and that’s the concept that I’ll be buying into and that I want everyone else to buy into.

“This is a wonderful club, great area and it’s not about one person … The talent will come and we’ll grow the talent and find the talent, but it’s who we are and what we are that’s the important thing within clubs.”

Asked if this would be his final coaching job, Bennett said: “You can’t say that.”

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