Dave Riccio believes the Dolphins will make a play for Panthers center Stephen Crichton as their star man to play fullback while Wayne Bennett defended the club’s recruiting strategy.
Crichton is under contract until the end of 2023, but is free to negotiate with rivals from November 1.
So far, Bennett has missed out on a standout player for the club’s inaugural season and now it looks like he will have to wait to lure someone to the club in 2024, unless he can convince a player to break his contract.
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Bennett remains defiant that his recruitment campaign is going well and revealed more signings will be announced in the coming months.
“We’re pretty comfortable that the players we have are quality players,” Bennett said.
“With the sponsorship, there are a lot of things sitting in the closet at home that we haven’t released yet. We’re not in a position to do that, but I’m sure in the coming months you’ll see the roster fill up with really good players.
“There are criticisms that we have not signed anyone. There is criticism of Dad’s Army and there will be criticism of something else in the future.
“We know what we are doing and we are confident in what we are doing and no one is going to distract me personally from doing what I think is best for the club.
“We have to protect what we are trying to build there and sometimes it is not the best thing for everyone to be public. It will be later, but it will not be today.
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Bennett bristled when asked if he imagined recruiting would be this tough to put together a Dolphins team by 2023.
“What’s so hard about it?” Bennett said.
“I love what I do, how hard it is to get out of bed every morning wanting to go talk to another player. That is not difficult.
“Those poor boys working in the sun with a pick and a shovel, that’s hard.”
However, Paul Kent believes the facts are that Bennett is having a hard time attracting breakout players and has missed out on 10 stars he had firmly in his sights.
“That’s the hard part though,” Kent said on NRL 360.
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“He talks about what is difficult. The fact is that they still don’t have enough players. They still don’t have the players they wanted to have.
“10 players have been lost so far. I’m talking about big name players. You’re talking about Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Harry Grant, Brandon Smith, Kalyn Ponga, Reece Walsh.”
However, Paul Crawley is confident that Bennett has things going on that the public doesn’t know about right now.
“You have to give Bennett a little credit, though,” Crawley said.
“Go back to how he brought Latrell Mitchell to South Sydney.
“He’s up to things we don’t know about. When they finish next year the salary cap will be spent and they will have a football side.
“But who is going to be the star player? Kent intervened.
“Who is going to be the best player? Who will be captain? Who is your broker? Who is your five eighth? That’s the problem.
“Wayne would have a plan,” Crawley replied.
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“When they come out next year they will have a competitive side. I always have.
“His plan was Reece Walsh,” Kent replied.
“His plan was Kalyn Ponga. His plan was Brandon Smith. His plan was Harry Grant.”
Riccio revealed that the Dolphins maintain that they will announce more signings very soon.
“Talking with the Dolphins today, they say they have some signings in the next couple of weeks,” Riccio said.
“Without names. I do not know who they are”.
Crawley believes the Dolphins would be talking to players who are under contract for 2023.
“They would be out there trying to make deals with players who are under contract,” Crawley said.
Riccio believes the Dolphins will go after Crichton, who is managed by the same management as Izack Tago and Brian To’o, with Penrith facing an uphill battle to keep all three beyond their current contracts.
“Jamayne Isaako signed with the Dolphins as a fullback, but there was a little mail last week that was returning these players without a contract as of Nov. 1,” Riccio said.
“Penrith has three weapons in Izack Tago, Brian To’o and Stephen Crichton.
“The Panthers won’t be able to keep all three. They are managed by the same management company.
“With good management, that coach probably wouldn’t keep all three of them at the same club.
“I suspect the Dolphins will make a play for Crichton at fullback. He is the total package on and off the field. He works the rear end out of it. He is studious and a quality footballer”.