Honeymoon is over for Dolphins as Bennett wields axe

Joel Gould |

Dolphins half Isaiya Katoa has been recalled to the side after coach Wayne Bennett swung the axe.
Dolphins half Isaiya Katoa has been recalled to the side after coach Wayne Bennett swung the axe.

The honeymoon at the Dolphins for underperforming players is over, and it’s never going to be that way again.

A cruel sea is washing on the shores of the Redcliffe peninsula after the poor 43-18 loss to North Queensland in round one.

Coach Wayne Bennett has axed centre Tesi Niu and halfback Sean O’Sullivan from the side that lost to the Cowboys. 

He brought in Jake Averillo and Isaiya Katoa in their place for the clash with St George Illawarra on Sunday in Redcliffe.

Last year Bennett gave his players a month’s grace in their inaugural season where he said he wouldn’t make changes. He didn’t need to either, because they had an outstanding opening month.

Before and after the loss to the Cowboys he said there would be no such luxury this year, and he was true to his word.

Recalled prop Jarrod Wallace summed up Bennett’s ruthless streak.

“No one is safe,” he said.

Wallace was 18th man against the Cowboys, but has been selected on the bench to play the Dragons.

“If we are not doing all the one-percenters and the things Wayne looks for to hold up our standards then we are not going to be there next week,” he said.

“He was super disappointed with us on the weekend. Wayne picks his team based on what he thinks will get the best outcome, and when it doesn’t it hurts him just as much as it hurts us.”

Averillo was recruited from Canterbury in the off-season and will play his first NRL game for the Dolphins.

Katoa was a regular in his rookie season last year. 

Both shone for Norths in a 25-12 win over Burleigh in the Queensland Cup, with Katoa taking the line on nicely with 17 runs. He was also flawless defensively. 

Averillo scored a try, set one up and ran for 149m in a match of high involvement.

“Isaiya is a fantastic young player and has a huge future in the NRL,” Wallace said.

“He leads us around so well and glides across the ground. I think he will be really good for us.”

As Wallace spoke to the media, Averillo was still doing extras on the training paddock. 

The prop was asked how hungry Averillo was for his chance.

“I wouldn’t have a clue. I haven’t heard him speak since he got here on day one,” Wallace said with a grin.

“He is still out there training, so I think that means he is hungry. He is not a man of many words, but he is a man of actions. 

“He is lightning-fast, big, strong and makes right decisions when he needs to.”

He said the dropped players would have to fight back.

“We have all been there,” Wallace said.

The Dolphins have lost second-rower Connelly Lemuelu (knee) and lock Ray Stone (concussion) from the side that played the Cowboys.

Max Plath moves from the bench to No.13, and Euan Aitken has been recalled in the second row.