NRL Spherical 1 predicted groups: The Dolphins now have depth

As a part of a sequence profiling the anticipated Spherical 1 sides for all 17 NRL golf equipment in 2024, it’s time to see if the Dolphins can again up their robust begin

It’s a cliché to say the troublesome second season, however that’s the problem dealing with Wayne Bennett and the Dolphins going into 2024.

They’ve stress this time, with a squad that’s materially stronger than it was and the addition of Herbie Farnworth and Tom Flegler, two gamers who would have a case to be their most proficient straight off the bat.

Redcliffe’s undoing in 2023 was an absence of depth, however fortuitously for them, that they had carried out so properly at first of the yr that something after Origin was a free hit.

Bennett and his assistant, Kristian Woolf, should now replicate that begin and attempt to maintain it going for longer – which, given the state of their roster, shouldn’t be an enormous drawback.

The precept behind the Dolphins’ recruitment has been that they might get the most effective workforce they may to start out within the NRL, however stay acutely aware that it was season certainly one of an extended, lengthy existence, with the aim of incrementally constructing year-on-year.

On paper, they’ve carried out precisely that. The brand new guys are higher than the previous guys, and the previous guys at the moment are the depth. Solely the very worst have been flushed out of the underside.

The Phins additionally suffered a good few key participant accidents, with Jeremy Marshall-King and Tom Gilbert explicit losses, and now get these guys again.

Wanting on the 17 that ought to begin the yr, it’s remarkably robust for a workforce that got here 13th in 2023 – now, they simply need to again it up.

(Photograph by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Pictures)

Who’s new?

The Dolphins’ weak level in 2023 was their centres, they usually have instantly upgraded each with the arrival of Farnworth and Jake Averillo.

It stays bonkers that the Bulldogs let their native junior go, however their loss is Redcliffe’s acquire as Averillo will lastly get the prospect to shine in what must be a comparatively functioning unit.

Given how properly he went at instances in a poor Canine outfit, it’s all arrange for him to succeed.

Farnworth is a gun and overtook Kotoni Staggs as crucial centre on the Broncos, however now he has to go yet another and dominate in a method that transcends his place.

It’s not unreasonable to suppose that he may find yourself on the identical tier as Joey Manu and Stephen Crichton as the very best on this planet, however they’ve just a few extra years of excellence behind them. Herbie has to kick on.

It’s an analogous story for Flegler, who has been superb because the third wheel behind Pat Carrigan and Payne Haas, and now have to be the primary man in a ahead pack that wants a pacesetter.

A lot of the incumbents are widing down their careers, and the subsequent era has to start out now with Flegler and Gilbert because the leaders.

Who’s gone?

Brenko Lee, Herman Ese’ese, JJ Collins and Poasa Faamuasili are all out, and none will probably be a loss.

Ese’ese truly featured quite a bit final yr, enjoying just about each week off the bench, however with Flegler arriving, he’d have been bumped from that position anyway with another person transferring out of the run on and onto the interchange.

Brenko performed 13 video games in 2023, which might be 13 greater than anybody would have hoped for, whereas Collins and Faamausili didn’t even handle that.

(Photograph by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Pictures)

Key spots to unlock?

There’s a little bit of a condundrum within the halves that Bennett has to get proper.

Final yr, he misplaced his meant halfback, Sean O’Sullivan, to harm and was pressured to play Kodi Nikorima as a 5 eighth and Isaiya Katoa, who started at 6, at 7.

In the long run, it went fairly properly contemplating and by the tip, it was O’Sullivan at 7, Kodi at 6 and Katoa on the bench.

That was extra acceptable on the finish of the season with nothing driving on the video games and Katoa a little bit battered after his first yr in grade, however this time round, it’d be a shock if he didn’t begin.

Redcliffe went above and past to get Katoa in to be their long-term future half, so even when Kodi and O’Sullivan is perhaps the most effective combo for proper now, it might be dumb to relegate Katoa to bench minutes.

Furthermore, Kodi’s biggest strengths are his versatility and skill to do the sudden, which makes him good as a bench 14. Not for the primary time, his utility worth may damage him.

Max Plath has an analogous skill to cowl a number of positions and would absolutely function later within the yr as accidents kick in, however for now, he’ll be in Q Cup. Ray Stone can also be an possibility, however it’s laborious to see the place he suits right into a crowded bench.

The addition of Flegler will see somebody have to slide to the bench, however it’s laborious to see who.

Jarrod Wallace and Mark Nicholls have been each respectable off the interchange final yr, and transferring Kenny Bromwich down permits Connolly Lemuelu, a breakout star in 2023, to play 80 on the sting.

Numerous it would come right down to how Bennett needs to strategy opponents. The model was extremely conservative and relied upon Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow to crack defences open, and it wouldn’t be unrealistic for this yr’s plan to be that once more, however with added Herbie and Averillo magic.

If that’s it, then Kodi plus three large males on the bench works to start out off with. It’ll take just a few accidents and suspensions to see if this new-found depth will be relied upon – and that’s the place we’ll discover out if yr two is to be an enchancment on an excellent begin to life within the NRL.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 11: Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow of the Dolphins celebrates scoring a try during the round two NRL match between the Dolphins and the Canberra Raiders at Kayo Stadium on March 11, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

(Photograph by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Pictures)

Spherical 1 predicted workforce

1 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow

2 Jamayne Isaako

3 Herbie Farnworth

4 Jake Averillo

5 Tesi Niu

6 Isaiya Katoa

7 Sean O’Sullivan

8 Jesse Bromwich

9 Jeremy Marshall-King

10 Tom Flegler

11 Felise Kaufusi

12 Connolly Lemuelu

13 Tom Gilbert


14 Kodi Nikorima

15 Kenny Bromwich

16 Mark Nicholls

17 Jarrod Wallace

Different squad members: Valynce Te Whare, Max Plath, Ray Stone, Jack Bostock, Edrick Lee, Euan Aitken, Harrison Graham, Josh Kerr, Mason Teague, Robert Jennings, Oryn Keeley, Anthony Milford

Growth gamers: Kurt Donoghoe, Jeremiah Simbiken, James Walsh, Michael Waqa, Ryan Jackson

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