New cult hero emerges as Dolphins salute in Bennett's 900th

Wayne Bennett unearthed a new star in his 900th premiership match as the Dolphins stunned the Sharks 36-16 with a performance that suggested he may be coaching better than ever.

Bennett has waited 18 months to unleash Kiwi wrecking ball Valynce Te Whare and the 183rd player to be given his debut by the super coach made an immediate impression.

Te Whare - a raw but powerful rugby union convert, who has been biding his time with the Dolphins feeder team in the Queensland Cup - scored a try in each half as the new franchise produced a typical Bennett effort.

Despite the absence of captain Jesse Bromwich, fellow prop Mark Nichols, halfback Sean O'Sullivan and former Queensland Origin back Brenko Lee, the Dolphins never looked like being headed by the high flying Sharks.

Not even the loss of centre Euan Aitken at half-time with a hamstring injury could dent the confidence and belief Bennett has instilled in a team that most had written off before the start of the season.  

With most of the Magic Round crowd behind them, the Dolphins got off to the best possible start when hooker Jeremy Marshall-King broke into the clear and rookie halfback Isaiya Katoa backed up to score his first NRL try in just the fifth minute.

Tonga team-mate Felise Kaufusi, who helped convince the teenager to join the Dolphins, then showed their intent in defence when he shook the ball loose from Matt Moyan with a rib-rattling tackle.

Star fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow extended the lead in the 17th minute after Aitken pushed off centre opposite Jesse Ramien and found the speedster in support.

The crowd then erupted when Te Whare pushed off four Cronulla defenders to score the first of his two tries on debut in the 23rd minute.

When second-rower Connelly Lemuelu crossed three minutes later, the Dolphins were almost keeping even time with the game clock and Tesi Niu ensured they maintained the momentum after crossing for their fifth try in the 31st minute.

The Sharks fought their way back into the game before halftime with tries to winger Ronaldo Mulitalo and fullback Will Kennedy but errors stymied any hope of overcoming the 30-0 lead the Dolphins had built.

Te Whare's second try all but sealed the Dolphins' sixth win in the 51st minute and their defence repeatedly repelled the Sharks until Teig Wilton finally crossed in the 67th minute.

Match snapshot

  • Dolphins mentor Wayne Bennett coached his 900th premiership game. He has also overseen another 328 matches at representative level, All Stars fixtures, World Club Challenges, cup matches and in the Brisbane competition before joining Canberra in 1987. 
  • Valynce Te Whare became the 27th player to represent the Dolphins in the NRL and the 379th player to play under Wayne Bennett in a premiership fixture. He was also the 183rd player given a debut by Bennett.
  • The Sharks missed 36 tackles and completed just 24 of 37 sets compared to 30 of 35 by the Dolphins.
  • Cronulla's William Kennedy and Ronaldo Mulitalo have both scored 10 tries in their past eight games.
  • The Sharks have now lost five of their past six games at Suncorp Stadium.

Play of the Game
He has already been nicknamed Val Meninga and Dolphins debutant Valynce Te Whare showed why as he earned instant cult hero status after pushing off four Sharks defenders to score in the 23rd minute and give the home team an early 18-0 lead. 




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What They Said
"I did enjoy that. Good to see us out in front, not playing from behind. We played two halves tonight which we haven't done since about Round 4. We had three prop forwards out tonight, we had a couple of good backs missing and then we just get guys in, give them a jersey and they get the job done, it’s quite remarkable actually, it's a credit to them. That’s what makes us the team that we are at the moment, no one minds where they’re playing, they just want to play and be part of it. There’s a lot of trust there, I encourage them when they come along and we trust them." - Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett

"It was a good lesson for us to be honest. More committed opponent straight from the start, they caught us on the jump and when the momentum started going, it was too late to address that. Tonight meant more to them than it did to us. We weren’t surprised. We prepared for it, we just couldn’t do anything about it. Attitude and spirit … we can look at the defensive errors, but it was an attitude thing." - Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon

What's Next
The Sharks tackle the Sea Eagles at 4 Pines Park on Sunday while the Dolphins get their first bye of the season in Round 11 ahead of a huge home game against the Storm at Suncorp Stadium in Round 12.

Captain Jesse Bromwich (hamstring) has been pencilled in to return in Round 12 alongside Brenko Lee (hamstring), Ray Stone (head knock) and Mark Nicholls (thumb), while Jack Bostock (nose) could also be available.




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Brad Walter, NRL Senior Reporter