Bennett a key man in Dolphins NRL bid
Redcliffe have confirmed they will launch a $20 million bid for an NRL licence, and have super coach Wayne Bennett on their radar to help the Dolphins become Brisbane's second team in 2023.
The Sunday Mail can reveal the Dolphins will seek a formal meeting with ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys this month as Redcliffe prepare to take on the Bombers and Ipswich's western-corridor bid in the battle for NRL entry.
It can also be revealed North Sydney approached Redcliffe with a plan to form a cashed-up "super bid", only for the Dolphins to decline the offer - effectively putting the Bears into expansion hibernation.
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The Dolphins have been criticised in recent months for being largely silent on the expansion issue at a time when the Bombers and Ipswich have been vocal, fuelling the belief Redcliffe's hearts aren't truly in the race.
But the Dolphins are the real deal. Just 24 hours after Bennett called for the NRL to expand to Redcliffe, chairman Bob Jones said the Dolphins were gunning for the second Brisbane licence to challenge the Broncos.
"We're putting in a bid - we're as keen as anyone," Jones said.
"We've been quietly working away for years and I'll be looking to meet with Peter V'landys in the next month to express our interest and put forward our bid.
"People who say we weren't interested … the NRL has always appreciated that we have kept things quiet and it was our view that there was no point making noise if the governing body wasn't in the right position to expand the game.
"But if they are looking at a 17-team competition for 2023, which appears to be the case, we'll be ready to go."
Former Broncos coach Bennett is one of the most powerful voices in rugby league and his comments that Redcliffe must enter the NRL will be taken seriously by ARLC chair V'landys.
The expiry of Bennett's Souths contract at the end of 2021 makes him the perfect target for a second Brisbane club.
When he parts ways with the Rabbitohs next year, Bennett plans to coach on and will listen to any overtures from the Dolphins.
Given the toxic nature of his sacking in 2018 at the Broncos club he coached to six premierships, Bennett's signing with a second Brisbane NRL team would set the scene for an explosive rivalry.
Jones said if the 70-year-old Bennett was keen, Redcliffe bosses were happy to talk to him.
"It's still early days with expansion and it's premature to be signing anyone, but Wayne would definitely be a consideration," Jones said.
"If we got the nod, we'd need to look at the best coaches available and Wayne is up there with the greatest.
"There's no doubt he could offer something to a Redcliffe NRL team."
It will take a seriously robust bid to roll Redcliffe.
Founded in 1947, the Dolphins possess one of the most recognised brands in Australian sport and are a premiership-winning powerhouse in Queensland's No.1 league competition, the Intrust Super Cup.
Redcliffe have won nine premierships, the latest in 2018, and are underpinned by a massive junior nursery in the Moreton Bay region. They are also backed by the rich Redcliffe Leagues Club, which has more than 40,000 members.
Politically, the Dolphins have allies. V'landys' predecessor Peter Beattie remains on the ARLC board and last year he declared Redcliffe were, in his view, the next cab off the rank for an NRL licence.
"We could certainly sustain an NRL team," Jones said.
"I would estimate it would take at least $20 million to start up a second Brisbane team and even with our leagues club, we would have to explore ways to generate finance.
"The Redcliffe brand in itself is a very strong brand. It's been around for a long time and has great recognition with the people of Brisbane.
"In regards to the name, we'd consider Brisbane Dolphins but it would be nice to recognise Redcliffe or even our wider region with a name like the Moreton Bay Dolphins."
Jones said Redcliffe would look to play the majority of their matches at Suncorp Stadium with one or two home games staged at the 10,000-capacity Dolphin Stadium to stay connected with the Peninsula.
"Certainly our intention is to play at Suncorp Stadium. That's what the broadcasters and the fans want," he said.
"I see an opportunity for us to play the odd game at Redcliffe against an away team that may not have a huge local or travelling supporter base.
"We believe we have the infrastructure to set up a good base which gives us an advantage over some other bid teams."
The Sunday Mail understands North Sydney Bears officials contacted Redcliffe in recent months in a last-ditch effort to claw their way back into the NRL.
The cashed-up Bears discussed a joint-venture style arrangement to benefit both parties.
Jones confirmed the talks but said Redcliffe were confident they could operate alone as an NRL entity.
"We had some discussions with the Bears," Jones said.
"We appreciated their interest but the difficulty was trying to find common ground on how a NSW team would work with a Queensland team.
"We're happy to push on with our bid. It's an exciting time. If and when expansion happens, we'll have our hat in the ring."