Queensland Origin forward Felise Kaufusi has been unveiled as the first marquee signing for the Dolphins ahead of their entrance to the NRL in 2023.
After missing out on targets including Kaufusi’s Storm teammates Cameron Munster and Christian Welch, the league’s 17th franchise announced they’d signed the second-rower to a three-year deal on Friday.
“It is imperative the Dolphins build a squad that contains players of representative calibre and Felise certainly fits that mould,” Dolphins NRL team CEO Terry Reader said.
“He has played 12 Origin matches for Queensland as well as representing Australia, so will bring some important experience to the playing group we are building to debut in the competition.
“The fact that he grew up in Bundaberg is also a positive for Queensland’s newest professional sporting team.
“Felise has been part of a very successful era for the Storm club in recent years, so we are excited about the leadership and strong work ethic he will bring to the Dolphins.”
— Dolphins NRL (@dolphinsnrl) November 25, 2021
A two-time premiership winner with Melbourne, the 29-year-old will join uncapped hooker Harrison Graham on the Dolphins’ books.
The 20-year-old, who is currently on a train-and-trial deal at the Broncos, has impressed in the Queensland Cup for Wynnum Manly and agreed to a development contract with the Dolphins.
Dolphins recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan recently spoke of the importance of “getting those first one or two [signings] over the line” as they aim to build a competitive roster.
“If they’re marquee type players, then that’s going to attract other players here,” O’Sullivan said.
“There will be a little bit of fear of the unknown, but I look at it as the excitement of the unknown. That’ll be the biggest challenge.
"We've just got to get 30 players to sign in 12 months, that's all"
Peter O'Sullivan joins the Dolphins as Head of Recruitment ???? pic.twitter.com/aeTj9RxRiM
— Dolphins NRL (@dolphinsnrl) November 17, 2021
“Apart from that, we’ve got 12 months to get it right. There isn’t too much negativity or problems that we’re going to face because we inherit no baggage.
“We’re coming with a clean slate and we’ve just got to get 30 players to sign in 12 months, that’s all.”
Having notched up 152 NRL games since debuting for the Storm in 2015, the Dolphins will hope that Kaufusi is the first of many big-name recruits.
The four-time Kangaroos representative will reunite with coach Wayne Bennett, who he played under during Queensland’s famous 2020 upset Origin series victory.
The Dolphins are still in the running for Storm hooker Brandon Smith, who recently toured their facilities. Smith has also been linked to the Titans, Roosters and Cowboys.