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Opinion

The Dolphins will be paddling upstream unless they settle on proper name

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Expert
1st January, 2022
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Normally when a new team enters a professional sports league they ask the fans to come up with a nickname that suits the geographic location of the team.

For the Dolphins, they need to cast the net far and wide to come up with a name to sum up the regions they’ll represent when they enter the NRL in 2023.

The 17th franchise has indicated they are going to roll with The Dolphins but they need to stake their claim to land somewhere in the Redcliffe, Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast area of South-East Queensland that they’ll represent.

It’s hard enough to be competitive and attract support from fans and the commercial sector as it is when you’re an expansion team, let alone if your identity is a source of confusion.

Club officials have said there is no name that sums up their region and they don’t want to use their traditional name of Redcliffe because they think it will stop fans among their Intrust Super Cup rivals from supporting them at NRL level.

Perhaps they should follow the lead of the Giants in the AFL, who basically made up the Greater Western Sydney tag.

It gave them an identity and the unique GWS brand stood out in the crowded sporting marketplace in Sydney’s west.

However, contriving a geographical name is not without its stuff-ups in Australian sport, particularly in the NRL.

In the early 1990s, the Roosters shed their traditional Eastern Suburbs moniker to become Sydney City (later dropping the City part) in a ploy to represent a bigger area and attract the business end of town.

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What followed was a ridiculous situation which encapsulates how much this is a copycat league.

Despite two teams – North Sydney and South Sydney – already featuring the city’s name, two more clubs followed suit.

Canterbury switched to Sydney Bulldogs and Balmain, desperately fighting against the threat of extinction, threw away 80-plus years of history to become the Sydney Tigers, play home games on rival turf at Parramatta Stadium and even throw in some purple onto their iconic black and gold jerseys to supposedly attract more fans.

It couldn’t have backfired any worse with minuscule crowds turning out for their matches at Parramatta.

Confusing as it was, it made great satirical fodder for Roy Slaven and HG Nelson who started calling every team Sydney.

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Balmain fortunately abandoned the plan after a couple of seasons and returned to Leichhardt for a few years before merging with Western Suburbs Magpies to form the Wests Tigers for the 2000 season.

They actually recovered well enough in the latter stages of the 1990s to have survived the rationalisation of the premiership to 14 teams as a standalone entity but chose the safety and extra funding that came with their merger.

Canterbury were technically the Sydney Bulldogs when they upset Manly in the 1995 grand final. They then tried to broaden their appeal by becoming The Bulldogs for more than a decade, taking out the 2004 title under that name before going back to their Canterbury-Bankstown roots in 2010.

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They adopted a cartoonish Bulldog as their logo during the time when the marketing suits held sway over commonsense and the fans’ wishes before reverting to their snarling traditional emblem.

Cronulla also made the mistake of listening to marketing experts by changing their name to The Sharks for a few seasons and also switching to a logo which elicited little fear but would supposedly attract a younger audience

They eventually abandoned the name, returned to a logo paying homage to their original menacing Shark and embraced their home territory with an “Our Shire, Our Team” philosophy which rallied the locals behind the club.

There is still plenty of time between now and kick-off next year for the Dolphins to learn from this history and come up with a proper name that doesn’t sound like another non-descript Super Rugby franchise.

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Why not consult the local First Nations elders to see if there’s a traditional name they would be happy for the Dolphins to use which sums up the area?

There are a lot of NRL fans north, east, south, west and within Brisbane who don’t support the Broncos and have no affiliation with the Titans or Cowboys and if the Dolphins play their cards right, they will attract the disenfranchised to their franchise.

They’re off to a good start by hiring Wayne Bennett to be their foundation coach and his presence will ensure they will attract decent talent to their roster on top of the first key recruits, Felise Kaufusi and Ray Stone.

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Whether the Dolphins’ location name ends up being South-East Queensland or Sunshine State or a totally new description of their diverse catchment area, anything is better than The.

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