Dolphins to become NRL’s 17th team

The Australian Rugby League Commission has confirmed that the Dolphins, based in the Queensland suburb of Redcliffe, 40 miles north of Brisbane, will become the NRL’s 17th club from 2023 onwards.

And the new club is ready to sign a three-year deal with Wayne Bennett to coach the side when it joins the competition in two years’ time.

Bennett’s appointment on 1st November will coincide with the opportunity to go on a recruitment drive for the 2023 season.

In announcing the decision, NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said Rugby League was on track for growth after a period of consolidation due to the impact of COVID-19.

“A move from 16 to 17 is a big move,” Abdo said.

“We want a team that can compete from day one and we want to make sure the team is financially viable. We want this to be incredibly successful. Equally we will have consideration to eventually moving from 17 to 18. I don’t know what that timeline looks like. That will be a factor of the success of the 17th team and a factor of which market is right, and whether the economics stack up.

The Dolphins emerged triumphant from competing Brisbane-based bids by the Jets and Firehawks and were able to produce a bank guarantee of $50 million over the course of the next five years to prove they were sustainable. They also persuaded the ARLC that they could increase interest and participation in Rugby League without adversely affecting the Broncos, Cowboys or Titans, the three existing Queensland clubs.

Their catchment area – which runs from northern Brisbane, through Moreton Bay and linking to the Sunshine Coast – has more than 10,000 registered junior players, while their junior club alone has 50 teams and 800 registered players in an area that is predicted to experience further population growth.

The Dolphins will become the first new club to join the NRL since the Gold Coast Titans in 2007.