NRL adamant Dolphins can succeed early

The NRL will expand to a 17-team competition from 2023 with the Dolphins granted a licence.
The NRL will expand to a 17-team competition from 2023 with the Dolphins granted a licence.

Andrew Abdo insists the Dolphins can defy history and be an immediate success with Wayne Bennett set to head up the NRL's 17th team for their first season in 2023.

NRL CEO Abdo confirmed on Wednesday the Redcliffe-based Dolphins had won the battle for the expansion licence, beating out the Brisbane Firehawks and Brisbane Jets.

The new franchise is already deep in talks with Bennett to be their inaugural coach, with the 71-year-old to head up their pursuit of players on the open market from November 1.

"We have spoken about having lofty ambitions and wanting to be the best in the land," Dolphins chairman Bob Jones said.

"If you want to be the best in the land you hire the best people in the land.

"I would think that if Wayne is not the best in the land he is right up there.

"We have reached out to Wayne and those discussions are progressing nicely and hopefully in the next little while we will know what is happening."

The expansion will gift the NRL 12 extra games and extend the regular season to 26 rounds.

The Dolphins will wear red and white and play as many as seven games out of Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.

They anticipate playing the rest out of their north-east Brisbane base of Redcliffe and Sunshine Coast.

The club has a proud history, entering the Brisbane Rugby League in 1960, with the likes of Arthur Beetson playing for them and owning their own stadium and a shopping centre.

But notably, they will be known as just the Dolphins and not the Brisbane or Redcliffe Dolphins.

They will also not be given concessions in the manner in which the AFL set up GWS and Gold Coast, with the NRL instead insistent they will have the structures in place for early success.

"We are very different to other sports. We think about expansion differently," Abdo said.

"This is not an exercise in us providing significant assistance from the centre, financial or through concessions or otherwise.

"Expansion needed to happen when we believe we can have a team that can compete from year one, from 2023."

History shows new teams have found it difficult early, with the average wait for a premiership at 20 years.

Melbourne are the big exception to that rule, reaching the finals in their first season and winning a premiership the next.

Part of the Redcliffe bid included names of potential heads of football, coaches and recruitment managers, adamant they could build a strong squad.

Bennett himself has experience in setting up a new side after doing so at Brisbane in 1988, but this is a far different operation given 20 of his 24 players that year came direct from the Brisbane Rugby League.

"We have looked at the depth of players, the state cup and over time a team developing their own talent and the natural market place movement," Abdo said.

"They have demonstrated to us how they would go about building a team and who they would contract first up from a non-playing perspective to help them go about contracting.

"It's a very detailed plan on how that will get built and what parameters they will operate in."

Australian Associated Press