After missing out on Cameron Munster’s prized signature Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins have once again been left stranded without a marquee superstar.
The Dolphins have now missed out on Munster, Harry Grant, Jahrome Hughes, Reece Walsh and Kalyn Ponga among other big names — and still have eight spots left in their top 30 roster for 2023.
Bennett conceded the club will be without a big-name player for the 2023 season by attempting to sign Munster who could make the move north in 2024.
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While it seems the Dolphins are in dire straits — a number of superstars remain off contract for the 2024 season.
Here, foxsports.com.au breaks down the biggest players ready to field offers from the NRL’s newest franchise come November 1.
Super coach Wayne Bennett made no secrets of his admiration for Titans bowling ball David Fifita.
The 22-year-old reportedly reached out to Bennett for advice during his mid-season form slump.
Bennett handed Fifita his NRL debut in 2018 and made no secret of his admiration for the backrower.
“If he is on the market then yes, we’re interested. You can’t walk away from quality players, but he isn’t on the market just yet, so we will have to wait,” Bennett said at the time.
Fifita signed a monster $1.25 million-a-year deal in 2021, but has unfortunately fallen short of that price tag during his time in the Gold Coast.
Fifita can negotiate with rivals come November 1, and rugby league legend Billy Moore pleaded with the Titans to offload him to the Dolphins on a cut-price deal.
“He’s an issue being $1.2 million in the cap and for mine, the Titans have to let him go,” Moore said on the Fox League podcast.
“Give him to Redcliffe, get him off your books and pay whatever portion you have to.”
On his day, Fifita is one of the most damaging players in the competition, however the Dolphins already have a number of backrowers.
Euan Aitken, Kenny Bromwich, Tom Gilbert, Felise Kaufusi all play their trade on and edge — which could see Bennett opt against bringing Fifita into his squad.
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Eels gun Dylan Brown enjoyed a career-best season in 2022 which ended with a disappointing loss to the Eels’ cross-town rivals in the grand final.
The 22-year-old was drafted into first grade at only 18 and has displayed a dangerous ball-running ability and an equally damaging ability to create.
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur was adamant his playmaker will remain at the Eels, but conceded the club can’t match the Dolphins’ deep pockets.
“We may not be able to compete with the money out there, but if we can table a deal that is competitive I’m sure Dylan will stay,” Arthur said to The Daily Telegraph.
“I have a good relationship with Dylan and he loves the club.”
Come November 1, Brown will have several clubs chasing his signature — but for now his focus is firmly placed on New Zealand’s World Cup campaign.
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Eels gun Mitchell Moses would be a prized signature should Wayne Bennett be able to pry him away from Parramatta.
Moses is yet to take up his option for the 2024 season and is expected to hit the open market come November 1 to see what type of money he can demand.
The Dolphins and Tigers have the ability to throw big-money contracts at off-contract players, and with his links to Leichhardt — Moses is a stronger chance of signing with the merger club.
However, the allure of Wayne Bennett may be a contributing factor and any deal would have to be north of $1 million after the 28-year-old knocked back an offer from the Broncos.
“He knocked back a million dollars from the Broncos to stay at Parramatta,” Paul Kent said in May.
“What we all know at the moment is the Dolphins are now in the market and are still desperate to sign a marquee player.
“And if they can entice Moses to get out of his contract a year early I think that would be a conversation that they would have.
“As they get closer to November the Dolphins are going to have to pull an ace out of their sleeve somewhere.”
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While Crichton has been playing in the centres for the Panthers, the 22-year-old has the ability to play fullback.
If the young gun departs the foot of the mountain he will almost certainly shift to the No.1 jersey and command fullback money.
Crichton, alongside teammate Brian To’o have been consistently linked to the Dolphins due to a salary cap squeeze.
Meanwhile, Crichton has also been linked with a move to the Bulldogs to follow former assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo to Belmore.
“These boys if they want to earn marquee money, they are not going to get it at Penrith,” The Daily Telegraph’s Buzz Rothfield said.
“They are young and the money at Redcliffe will be much better.”
Crichton could command upwards of $800,000-per-season by moving from Penrith, however utility Mitch Kenny gave the biggest indication yet he will re-sign.
“The club is in a position now, where guys recognise what we have here and want to stay together,” Kenny said to foxsports.com.au.
“It speaks to how tight-knit the group is as well, a lot of these local guys, who probably want to repay the club as well for developing them and making them the first graders they are today.
“It would take a bit for a lot of these guys to leave because they are the players they are because of the teammates they have and the coaches they have.
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Bennett has made his interest in Rabbitohs superstar Latrell Mitchell no secret.
After missing out on Munster, Mitchell has firmed as the club’s top target and the super coach said his club will be ready with an offer come November 1.
“I haven’t had talks with Latrell, but if he is on the open market in November, then yes I’m interested,” Bennett said to News Corp.
“He has been negotiating with South Sydney and they might do a deal before he becomes a free agent.
“Right now, he isn’t on the market. If Latrell does go to the open market, there will be 16 other clubs chasing him and we will be one of them.”
Mitchell’s contract negotiations with Souths seem to be dragging on, but according to News Corp his new deal is set to be announced before November 1.
In the meantime, Bennett will be doing everything he can to try and change the gun fullback’s mind.
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Tigers gun Adam Doueihi could be a left-field recruit for Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins.
The 24-year-old was seeking a loan move to the Storm at the back-end of the season, explaining it was a “good opportunity.
According to News Corp, Doueihi was at the top of Melbourne’s wishlist if Munster was to depart and the Dolphins could follow suit.
Incoming coach Tim Sheens has a big headache on his hands with the trio of Luke Brooks, Jackson Hastings and Doueihi all vying for a spot in the Tigers’ halves.
Jock Madden’s departure means Tigers powerbrokers will be desperate to retain all three to keep depth in the playmaking positions.
However, Doueihi has been vocal of his desire to play in the No.6 jersey moving forward.
The merger club are reportedly negotiating a contract extension for Brooks, while Hastings can play at lock and was one of the club’s best this season.
Doueihi could see himself squeezed out and the Dolphins could pounce.
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