Bennett, Dolphins invest in Burnett players

Dolphins NRL player pathways specialist Kurt Richards coaching minute details of footy.

Euan Morrisson

Wayne Bennett and Kurt Richards surveyed the landscape of Rugby League in the South Burnett.

At the Kingaroy Red Ants’ home ground of T.J. O’Neil Oval, South Burnett Rugby League held a development session featuring coaching staff from the Dolphins NRL team.

Dolphins head coach Wayne Bennett and player pathways specialist Kurt Richards were in attendance.

There they went around to the training sessions being conducted, spoke with players and coaching staff from the South Burnett Rugby League alike, and gave their 2 cents.

Afterwards, Bennett and Richards had a quick chat with parents and had a Q&A with sponsors of the 2022 Season.

Carl Braithwaite is one of the coordinators of the South Burnett Rugby League competition.

Braithwaite and his colleague met Wayne Bennett at a meeting for Wide Bay Rugby League.

“Myself and Scotty went to a Wide Bay meeting with the Dolphins, so all the clubs in the Wide Bay were involved in the meeting… and Wayne was there and we were chatting about school footy and club footy and stuff like that and he said ‘well I haven’t got an NRL side this year how about I come out?’ and we nearly fell over,” Braithwaite said.

Braithwaite said that because the Dolphins have started to invest in grassroots clubs in what they consider their feeder areas, young players will have more opportunities with footy.

“With the Dolphins NRL in the area it means they [players] don’t have to go and play anywhere else, they can be seen here, play here, live here, all the way until they finish school and beyond,” he said.

“They’ve got a dedicated pathway, now to QCUP or NRL from here. They don’t have to move.”

The development day was part of the South Burnett Rugby League’s Beyond the Nest program.

The program has seen big successes and Braithwaite reckons what made the program was its split focus on developing players and coaches.

“We designed this program ourselves, to suit ourselves and to suit our area,” he said.

“We recognised that the coaching was one of the biggest challenges we faced and quality coaching, so we started out with improving our coaches whilst improving the kids and BtN is just as much about improving coaching quality as it is improving the kids.”

This approach, Braithwaite said, is yielded positive results.

“We found that once the coaching accreditations and skill got better, more and more kids came along and more were getting more out of it,” he said.

Braithwaite said the opportunity to have Wayne Bennett come out and give a hand was a tremendous opportunity for everyone to learn from the best.

“You can never stop learning, like you might think you know it all but you don’t,” he said.

“When you’ve got [someone with] NRL experience and no one’s got more NRL experience than Wayne Bennett, coming along to put in, he says we’ll change this, do this, do that… it’s so much better.”

“When you’ve got people of this calibre around, the kids listen. It’s not coming from the same person all the time and they’ve got all the experience; the kids just hang off every word.”

Braithwaite thanked South Burnett Rugby League’s sponsors, Ken Mills Isuzu, WestLink Petroleum, Project water, McDonald’s, Freeman’s Real estate, Kingaroy Shopping World, Ryke Fuel, Stanwelland many others.