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Ten months out from their NRL entry, the Dolphins – if media buzz is to be believed – are racing the clock to piece together a competitive squad.

Wayne Bennett’s presence as foundation coach gives the Dolphins an inherent advantage and while they are yet to net a marquee fish to build a team around – a Ponga or Munster type – the NRL’s soon-to-be 17th club has the bones of a decent side on its books for 2023 so far.

Melbourne trio Felise Kaufusi, Jesse and Kenny Bromwich provide Dolphins’ pack with an elite bedrock, while Mark Nicholls is an excellent purchase.

Jamayne Isaako, Ray Stone, Edrick Lee and Robert Jennings bring handy NRL experience, if not overwhelming consistency, to the fledgling outfit.

Cowboys tyros Tom Gilbert and Connelly Lemuelu should relish the opportunity in southeast Queensland and young Penrith halfback Isaiya Katoa looks a potential gun.

Panthers back-up half Sean O’Sullivan is strongly tipped to again link with his dad, Dolphins recruitment boss Peter, but they badly need some big spine buys.

It’s not an easy task. The wider pool of player talent isn’t what it used to be and essentially the Dolphins have to pick the eyes out of their 16 rivals, as well as padding out the roster with second-tier players, value pick-ups and emerging youngsters.

We’ve run the rule over the foundation squad for every new club since the premiership expanded beyond Sydney’s boundaries in 1982. Ranked in order of perceived quality at inception, rather than achievement.

Brisbane Broncos (1988)

The crème de la crème of expansion rosters.

The QRL’s prohibitive transfer fees prevented many Queensland stars – most notably Wally Lewis and Gene Miles, two of the top handful of Australian players in the 1980s – from taking up contracts with Sydney clubs.

Brisbane’s admission provided Lewis, Miles, fellow Test reps Greg Dowling, Bryan Niebling, Greg Conescu, Colin Scott and brilliant 21-year-old Origin halfback Allan Langer with a long-awaited opportunity in the NSWRL premiership.

Four more Broncos originals made their debuts for Queensland or NSW in 1988 or ’89, with Michael Hancock and Kerrod Walters breaking into the Australian team in the latter season.

The Wayne Bennett-coached Broncos obliterated defending champs Manly 44-10 on debut and won their first six games but faded to finish seventh after a taxing representative period.

Just six of the club’s ’88 pioneers featured in the breakthrough 1992 grand final win over St George, however.

First team: Colin Scott, Joe Kilroy, Chris Johns, Gene Miles, Michael Hancock, Wally Lewis (c), Allan Langer, Greg Dowling, Greg Conescu, Bryan Neibling, Keith Gee, Brett Le Man, Terry Matterson. Interchange: Mark Hohn, Billy Noke, Craig Grauf. Coach: Wayne Bennett

Fun fact: Despite the lashings of blue-chip talent in the Broncos’ first team, a pair of less-credentialled players combined for their maiden first-grade try. Replacement half Craig Grauf came off the bench to hoist a bomb for second-rower Brett Le Man to plunge over under the Lang Park posts.

Auckland Warriors (1995)

Easily the strongest of the four ’95 entrants and boasting a premiership-winning coach in John Monie, the Warriors’ inaugural line-up that went down to the Broncos 25-22 in an unforgettable debut, contained 12 players that had already represented New Zealand.

Veteran skipper Dean Bell, gun back-rower Stephen Kearney, prolific winger Sean Hoppe and incumbent Test captain Duane Mann headlined the Kiwi contingent, while Penrith’s premiership captain Greg Alexander and well-travelled tryscoring freak Phil Blake added Aussie flavour.

Great Britain internationals Andy Platt and Dennis Betts, England-based Kiwis Frano Botica and Richie Blackmore, and former All Black legend John Kirwan would make delayed entries into Auckland’s foundation campaign.

But the player who arguably made the biggest impact was an impish 19-year-old halfback named Stacey Jones.

An interchange bungle robbed the Warriors of the two points earned from their maiden win over the Magpies and ultimately cost them a spot in the finals, finishing below eighth-placed Norths on for-and-against.

First team: Phil Blake, Sean Hoppe, Dean Bell (c), Manoa Thompson, Whetu Taewa, Gene Ngamu, Greg Alexander, Gavin Hill, Duane Mann, Hitro Okesene, Stephen Kearney, Tony Tatupu, Tony Tuimavave. Interchange: Se’e Solomona, Tea Ropati, Jason Mackie, Martin Moana. Coach: John Monie

Fun fact: Hoppe was the only player to feature in all 22 of the Warriors’ 1995 matches. He scored 19 tries – which stood as a club record until 2003 – and was named Dally M Winger of the Year.

Melbourne Storm (1998)

Given fullback Robbie Ross was their first major signing in early-October of 1997, Melbourne Storm produced a minor recruitment miracle in assembling a competitive squad.

Champion forwards Glenn Lazarus and Tawera Nikau provided some crucial marquee factor, but the bulk of the roster was filled up by picking the bones of defunct Super League clubs Hunter Mariners and Perth Reds, ending up with a stack of Super League internationals and future Origin reps.

The Mariners delivered them Ross, Brett Kimmorley, Scott Hill, Richard Swain, Paul Marquet and John Carlaw, while Rodney Howe, Robbie Kearns, Matt Geyer and Wayne Evans, among others, arrived from the Reds.

Gold Coast Chargers and Papua New Guinea winger Marcus Bai was an immediate sensation, winning 1998 Dally M Winger of the Year honours, while unknowns Aaron Moule (South Queensland), Tony Martin (London), Ben Roarty (Canterbury lower grades) and Matt Rua (Manly lower grades) came up trumps under coach Chris Anderson.

But no one predicted how immediately successful Melbourne would be.

The Storm produced the greatest debut season in premiership history, leading the competition after losing just two of their first 15 games, before finishing third and bowing out in the third week of the finals.

NRL grand final glory followed in 1999.

First team: Robbie Ross, Craig Smith, Aaron Moule, Paul Bell, Marcus Bai, Scott Hill, Brett Kimmorley, Rodney Howe, Danny Williams, Robbie Kearns, Paul Marquet, Ben Roarty, Tawera Nikau. Interchange: Glenn Lazarus (c), Richard Swain, Russell Bawden, John Carlaw. Coach: Chris Anderson

Fun fact: Nine Storm foundation players broke through for NSW, Queensland, Australia or New Zealand debuts by midway through the 2000 season.

Gold Coast Titans (2007)

It’s easy to forget the Titans were a formidable entity during their first four years in the NRL – and their moderate early success stemmed from assembling a well-constructed squad under highly-rated rookie coach John Cartwright.

The newcomers were burned by late contract back-flips from crack wingers Brian Carney and Steve Turner, but Kangaroos and co-captains Scott Prince and Luke Bailey, dual international Mat Rogers and Dally M Medallist and premiership winner Preston Campbell provided the basis of a solid first-up team.

Ex-Origin reps Chris Walker and Brad Meyers were hampered by injury, but Anthony Laffranchi, Nathan Friend and Luke Swain brought grand final experience to the Titans and kicked on for the embryonic club, as did Mark Minichiello, Brett Delaney and Matt Petersen.

The Titans spent seven weeks of their 2007 foundation season in the Top 8 and were fourth after Round 15.

They never sat lower than 12th – their eventual finishing position after fading with eight losses from their last 10 games.

First team: Preston Campbell, Lelea Paea, Mat Rogers, Jake Webster, Chris Walker, Matt Hilder, Scott Prince (c), Luke Bailey (c), Clint Amos, Kris Kahler, Anthony Laffranchi, Gavin Cooper, Luke Swain. Interchange: Michael Henderson, James Stosic, Mark Minichiello, Nathan Friend. Coach: John Cartwright.

Fun fact: Mark Minichiello was the only Titan to play all 24 games in 2007 and still holds the club’s appearance record (173).

Newcastle Knights (1988)

Built predominantly on local players, Newcastle’s inaugural squad was the most Kiwi-centric outfit ever assembled in the premiership to that point with captain Sam Stewart, fellow Test players Adrian Shelford and James Goulding, and future New Zealand reps Tea Ropati, George Mann and Tony Kemp featuring for the ’88 Knights.

The modest contingent of recruits with premiership experience including forwards David Boyd, Marc Glanville, Tony Townsend and maiden player of the year Tony Butterfield, while Jeff Doyle and Robbie Tew arrived from Redcliffe.

Then-unknown debutants Paul Harragon, Robbie McCormack and Steve Fulmer were among the most notable foundation Knights, despite failing to break into the team for the club’s first match, a 28-4 loss to Parramatta.

The Knights finished 14th with just five wins but became competitive in 1989 after adding Canterbury duo Michael Hagan and Mark Sargent.

First team: Glenn Frendo, Brian Quinton, Gavin Hanrahan, Glenn Miller, Rod Whitaker, Robbie Tew, Steve Walters, Tony Butterfield, Tony Townsend, David Thorne, Michael McKiernan, Sam Stewart (c), David Boyd. Interchange: Scott Carter, George Mann, Tea Ropati. Coach: Allan McMahon.

Fun fact: Six foundation Knights – Harragon, McCormack, Butterfield, Glanville, Boyd and Miller – played in the club’s first finals match in 1992.

Western Reds (1995)

Foundation skipper Brad Mackay was the Perth-based Reds’ only initial blue-chip buy – and even he had missed the 1994 Kangaroo Tour squad.

The club’s other high-profile recruits were past their peak: dual Dally M winner Mick Potter came out of retirement to play under Peter Mullholland; former Wallaby James Grant hung up the boots at the end of 1995; former Kangaroo wild child Mark Geyer spent 1994 with Umina Bunnies after getting sacked by Balmain; and 1992 rookie of the year Matt Rodwell did not play a first grade game the previous season.

Nevertheless, the Reds received good service from Mackay, Rodwell and lower-profile pick-ups Dale Fritz, Chris Ryan, Matthew Fuller, Brett Goldspink and Tim Horan. British-based Craig Innes, Brendan Tuuta and Barrie Jon-Mather arrived mid-season as the Reds won half of their 22 games to finish a respectable 11th.

The Reds became victims of the Super League upheaval, folding at the end of 1997 with a bunch of their players being snapped up by the new Melbourne Storm franchise.

First team: Michael Potter, James Grant, Chris Ryan, Tim Horan, Greg Fleming, Dale Fritz, Matthew Rodwell, Brett Goldspink, Matthew Fuller, Rodney Howe, Mark Geyer, Jeff Doyle, Brad Mackay (c). Interchange: David Boyd, Shaun Devine, Peter Shiels. Coach: Peter Mullholland.

Fun fact: David Boyd featured in the Knights’ and Reds’ first-ever matches, seven years apart.

Gold Coast-Tweed Giants (1988)

The Bob McCarthy-coached Giants’ 1988 roster wasn’t short on recognisable names: former Origin hero Chris Close, Rothmans Medal winner Mike Eden, Manly premiership star Ron ‘Rambo’ Gibbs, ex-Eels grand final-winning winger Neil Hunt, and Billy Johnstone and Glenn Burgess, who both played in the 1985 grand final.

Plenty of BRL favourites headed to the border-straddling club, too, but the reality was virtually all of Queensland’s best available talent had been stitched up by the Broncos.

Gold Coast-Tweed won four games and finished second-last in 1988, the start of an 11-season stay in the premiership that included three name changes, three wooden spoons and constant upheaval until the club’s 1998 demise.

First team: Mike Eden, Paul Sheahan, Chris Close, Mark Ross, Bennett King, Wayne Alberts, Geoff Bagnall, Peter Smith, Billy Johnstone (c), Jim Cowell, Tony Rampling, Eric Kennedy, Russell Browning. Interchange: Robert Simpkins, Troy McCarthy, Greg Whitbread, Scott Mieni. Coach: Bob McCarthy.

Fun fact: The Giants used a whopping 36 players during their 1988 debut season.

South Queensland Crushers (1995)

The Crushers failed to lure Mal Meninga into a swansong season in Brisbane, but their 1995 team had no shortage of former Origin heroes on the wrong side of 30: Mario Fenech, Trevor Gillmeister, Mark Hohn and Dale Shearer.

Kiwi Test veteran Tony Kemp and experienced types Wayne Collins, John Jones, Glen Liddiard and Brett Horsnell also gave the Bob Lindner-coached Crushers a solid look.

But recruiting Wallabies Garrick Morgan and Anthony Herbert did not pay off, while Brits St John Ellis and Mike Ford made little impact.

The highlight of the club’s six-win, 16th-place debut campaign was arguably the role played by skipper Gillmeister, Hohn, Shearer and Origin newcomers Craig Teevan and Terry Cook in the Super League-ravaged Queensland side stunning 3-0 series cleansweep of NSW.

The financially-stricken Crushers folded after three seasons.

First team: Anthony Herbert, St John Ellis, Travis Norton, Nathan Turner, Wayne Simonds, Craig Weston, Craig Teevan, Mark Hohn, Ray Herring, Mario Fenech (c), Trevor Gillmeister, Brett Horsnell, Scott Sattler. Interchange: Anthony Bella, Jeff Wittenberg, Mike Ford. Coach: Bob Lindner.

Fun fact: Aside from Teevan and Cook, three other 1995 Crushers went on to debut for Queensland: Chris McKenna (1999), Travis Norton (2002) and Scott Sattler (2003).

Hunter Mariners (1997)

It was a tough gig for the Mariners, Super League’s attempt at muscling into largely pro-ARL, Knights-mad Newcastle.

But they overachieved by finishing sixth in their only season, the sole ’97 Super League premiership, and making the final of the World Club Challenge tournament.

Graham Murray’s squad contained eight former Knights first-graders and was headlined by St George grand final halfback Noel Goldthorpe, Kiwi Test stalwarts Kevin and Tony Iro, and former Origin hooker Robbie McCormack.

But the real individual success stories for the Mariners were young guns Robbie Ross and Brett Kimmorley, who both represented Super League Australia in 1997, and future internationals Scott Hill and Richard Swain.

All four would play key roles the following year in establishing the Storm as an immediate force.

First team: Robbie Ross, Keith Beauchamp, Nick Zisti, Brad Godden, Gavin Thompson, Scott Hill, Noel Goldthorpe (c), Tim Maddison, Robbie McCormack, Justin Dooley, Paul Marquet, Tony Iro, Neil Piccinelli. Interchange: Troy Stone, Willie Poching, Richard Swain.

Fun fact: Only one club – Cumberland, which played eight games in the inaugural 1908 competition before folding – played less premiership matches than the Mariners.

Adelaide Rams (1997)

The Rod Reddy-coached Rams’ initial squad contained a host of recognisable names – Broncos premiership heroes Kerrod Walters and Alan Cann, 1988 Rookie of the Year Cameron Blair, ex-Kiwi Test winger Jason Donnelly, veteran hooker/lock Dean Schifilliti and nifty fullback Rod Maybon – but all were well past their prime.

The likes of Kevin Campion, Mark Corvo, Dave Boughton and 18-year-old rookie Luke Williamson made the most of the opportunity in Adelaide, while Michael Maguire was the Rams’ first fullback and David Kidwell made his first-grade debut at the club.

The Rams posted six wins and a draw from their 18 Super League premiership matches to finish second-last and shut their doors at the end of the 1998 NRL season.

First team: Michael Maguire, Wayne Simonds, Solomon Kiri, Elias Paiyo, Joe Tamani, Kurt Wrigley, Stuart Topper, Andrew Hick, Kerrod Walter (c), Marty McKenzie, Dave Boughton, Brett Galea, Cameron Blair. Interchange: Kevin Campion, Chris Quinn, Steve Stone, Bruce Mamando.

Fun fact: Dean Lance coached the doomed Perth Reds and Adelaide Rams in their respective last matches.

Illawarra Steelers (1982)

Wollongong product and 1978 Test player John ‘Joe Cool’ Dorahy stood out like a beacon on the Steelers’ foundation roster.

Newtown’s 1981 grand final trio Brian Hetherington, Barry Jensen and Shane McKellar provided crucial NSWRL premiership experience, as did Canterbury’s Greg Cook and Norths’ Rod Henniker, in a squad mostly made up of locals and Sydney fringe players.

Allan Fitzgibbon steered Illawarra to six wins in 1982 to avoid the wooden spoon.

First team: John Sparks, Chris Montgomery, John Dorahy (c), Brian Hetherington, Shane McKellar, Lee Pomfret, Steve Topper, Peter Ryan Jr, Barry Jensen, Gary Cook, Wayne Springall, Rod Henniker, Martyn Cavill. Replacements: Mitchell Jones. Coach: Allan Fitzgibbon.

Fun fact: After unseating incumbent NSW Origin hooker Jensen during 1982, Collegians product Michael Bolt went on to rack up a Steelers record 167 appearances and once put together a streak of 187 games in first or reserve grade without missing one.

North Queensland Cowboys (1995)

Though fervently supported from the outset with a 1995 home crowd average of more than 20,000, the Cowboys won just two games in their first season and finished with the wooden spoon.

The careers of the Cowboys’ biggest names – Origin great Martin Bella, veteran half Laurie Spina, 1990 Rookie of the Year Jason Martin, ex Steelers pair Dean Schifilliti and Ian Russell, and former Norths playmaker Noel Solomon – were all on the slide.

Unheralded types Wayne Sing, George Bartlett, Damian Gibson, Paul Galea and Justin Loomans were among the Cowboys’ best in ’95. The marquee money went to mid-season arrival Jonathan Davies, the Welsh wizard whose otherwise modest nine-game stint in Townsville included an unforgettable long-range solo try against Newcastle.

First team: Damian Gibson, David Bouveng, Adrian Vowles, Willie Morganson, John Skardon, Ian Dunemann, Laurie Spina (c), Martin Bella, Dean Schifilliti, Andrew Whittington, Wayne Sing, Ian Russell, Paul Galea. Interchange: Shane Christensen, Noel Solomon, George Bartlett, Leigh Groves.

Fun fact: Adrian Vowles, a 1994 Queensland Origin rep, was sent off for a high tackle in the Cowboys’ premiership debut, a 34-16 loss to the Bulldogs. Vowles went on to win the Man of Steel after joining Castelford.

Canberra Raiders (1982)

The best thing the fledgling Raiders had going for them was their coach, former Test forward and 1972 Easts grand final mentor Don Furner, who didn’t have much to work with after the Canberra bid ousted Campbelltown to become the NSWRL premiership’s 14th club.

Only 10 players who turned out for the Raiders in 1982 had previous first-grade experience, headlined by inaugural skipper David Grant and his former Balmain teammate Lloyd Martin, Queensland’s 1980 Origin five-eighth Alan Smith and Penrith veteran Terry Wickey.

But Canberra stalwarts Chris O’Sullivan, Craig Bellamy and Ashley Gilbert all got their start in that wooden spoon season, along with inaugural player of the year Jon Hardy, first tryscorer Gerry de la Cruz and other cherished Raiders cult heroes of the era such as Angel Marina, Jay Hoffman and Sam Vucago.

First team: Sam Vucago, Chris O’Grady, Frank Roddy, Peter McGrath, Steve O’Callaghan, Lloyd Martin, Gerry de la Cruz, Carl Frommel, John McLeod, Jon Hardy, David Grant (c), Jay Hoffman, Jeff Simons. Replacements: Mick Tilse, Scott Dudman. Coach: Don Furner.

Fun fact: Two players from the Raiders’ first team spawned prominent NRL-era players. Jay Hoffman’s son, Ryan, was an Australian and NSW rep during a career spanning more than 300 first-grade games at the Storm and Warriors, while Mick Tilse’s offspring, Dane, played 201 games for Canberra after debuting at Newcastle.