NRL transfer news: Dolphins sign Tom Gilbert from Cowboys on three-year deal

After missing out on the signature of Kalyn Ponga, Wayne Bennett has hit back at critics, snaring an emerging star from Queensland rivals the Cowboys.

Wayne Bennett has hit back at his critics, declaring the Dolphins will muscle-up to the best packs in the NRL after the expansion franchise poached boom forward Tom Gilbert from Queensland rivals the Cowboys.

A week after missing out on Knights superstar Kalyn Ponga, the Dolphins have bolstered their long-term future with the acquisition of the off-contract Gilbert.

At 21, Gilbert has a bright career in the NRL and has cemented a spot in North Queensland’s best 17 this season, playing all seven games.

Brisbane-born Gilbert is a Norths Devils junior and will return to his home region near the Redcliffe-based Dolphins in 2023.

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Tom Gilbert has been a breakout star for the Cowboys in 2022, and joins a solid forward pack at the Dolphins. Picture: Getty Images.
Tom Gilbert has been a breakout star for the Cowboys in 2022, and joins a solid forward pack at the Dolphins. Picture: Getty Images.

The Dolphins are putting together a solid forward pack, having already signed Melbourne trio Felise Kaufusi and Jesse and Kenny Bromwich to go with South Sydney grand final prop Mark Nicholls.

The NRL’s 17th team has also secured Parramatta ironman Ray Stone, with Gilbert’s signing giving Bennett a six-pack of forwards the super coach believes will ensure the Dolphins are competitive from ground zero next season.

“People can keep criticising us but I know what I want and I will be patient to make sure we get the right fit of players for our club,” Bennett said.

“Everybody else in the competition wants quality, so we won’t get all our targets, but we are going to have a strong pack from day one.

“If we want to be a successful club, we need a strong forward pack and we will have that.

“That’s where it all starts.

“Everyone likes to talk about fullbacks, five-eighths and halfbacks, but they can’t do anything on the field without a strong group of guys to lead the way up front.”

Wayne Bennett says despite what critics are saying he is happy to stay patient and slowly assemble the right roster. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Wayne Bennett says despite what critics are saying he is happy to stay patient and slowly assemble the right roster. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Gilbert has played 30 NRL matches since making his debut for North Queensland in 2020.

He was named the rookie of the year in Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup in 2019 and also represented both the Queensland under-20s team and the open-age Queensland Residents side that year.

New Queensland coach Billy Slater is certain to be watching Gilbert’s development with interest. The Cowboys were keen to retain Gilbert, but it is understood the hard-running forward was enticed by the prospect of being coached by Bennett.

“We are very happy to get Tom, it’s a good signing for us. He has been in good form since the season started,” Bennett said.

“I like his energy and enthusiasm. He is a player who always gives his best and that’s what I want from my players.

“I just know he will be the type of guy who will fit into the type of club we want to build. He is always encouraging his teammates to be better. He is a Brisbane boy so the appeal of coming back to Brisbane was a factor that played in our favour.

“I like the fact Tom is versatile. He can play front row or on the edge, so he is a really shrewd signing for us.”

Originally published as NRL transfer news: Dolphins sign Tom Gilbert from Cowboys on three-year deal