As Wayne Bennett embarks on building a playing squad that will ensure the Dolphins hit the ground running in their maiden NRL campaign, the veteran coach says culture will be the driving factor in his recruitment.
Bennett, 71, was confirmed as the Dolphins' foundation NRL coach on Thursday, the club signing him to a four-year deal as they prepare for their debut in the competition in 2023.
The only coach to take four different clubs to a grand final - including Brisbane five years after their entry to the NRL in 1988 - Bennett's appointment comes before the November 1 deadline when the Dolphins can begin negotiations with players.
The expansion club have already been linked with NRL stars Kalyn Ponga, Cameron Munster and Harry Grant.
Parramatta hooker Reed Mahoney, Gold Coast forward Tino Fa'asuamaleui and Melbourne prop Christian Welch are others on the Dolphins' radar.
With a $9.5 million salary cap to fill, Bennett says it's more than just pure talent that will drive his selections.
"Culture, every time," he said.
"The talent will come and we'll grow the talent, we'll find the talent but it's who we are and what we are and what we stand for is the important things within clubs.
"Obviously I want the good players to come here and want to feel comfortable here but there's just more than me being here that will bring them here and that's the concept that I'll be buying in to and I want everyone else to buy in to.
"This is a wonderful club, great area and it's not about one person."
The Dolphins will be Bennett's latest stop in a first-grade coaching career that began working alongside Don Furner at Canberra in 1987 before a 20-year stint at the Broncos, which brought the club six premierships.
He took St George Illawarra to a premiership in 2010, spent three years at Newcastle and then returned to Brisbane, taking them to the 2015 grand final.
Sacked by the Broncos in 2018, Bennett then joined South Sydney where his final match at the helm was this year's grand final defeat to Penrith.
Despite the breakdown of his relationship with the Broncos after his acrimonious exit from Red Hill, Bennett said his decision to take on the Dolphins job was not about establishing a rivalry with his former employers.
"I'll make a point to you all here today, my time with the Broncos is over," he said.
"I'm here at Redcliffe - the Dolphins - and I want them to be the best club.
"I'm not going to be looking over my shoulder at any other club in the NRL.
"My total focus is on what we can do here how we can enhance what they've already built here."
Bennett is yet to decide on his coaching staff but did confirm his assistant is likely to be his long-term successor at the Dolphins, similar to the role played by Jason Demetriou at the Rabbitohs.
"That's obviously going to be an important decision," Bennett said.
"I'm just kind of sitting back at the moment, we've got 12 months grace there, but our plan is to get someone to take my place when my time's up as we've just done at South Sydney.
"It works and it's in the best interest of everybody that we move in that direction.
"That's been part of the negotiations and that's the way we're going."
Australian Associated Press
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