He's the Dolphins' first major NRL signing, but Felise Kaufusi is just the beginning as far as veteran coach Wayne Bennett believes.
After missing out on several targets including Kaufusi's Queensland State of Origin teammates Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Christian Welch, the 29-year-old's capture was confirmed on Friday.
Kaufusi will join the expansion club ahead of their inaugural 2023 campaign after his eighth - and now final - season with Melbourne next year.
During his time at the Storm Kaufusi has won two premierships, made 12 Origin appearances and played international football for both Australia and Tonga.
For Bennett, who coached Kaufusi in the 2020 Origin campaign, that wealth of success and experience are vital attributes as he puts together his foundation roster.
"Not everybody will have played in grand finals and been a top level player like he is but we need a number of those players," Bennett said.
"They show the way and they set the standards. They're important."
Prior to Kaufusi the only other player signed to the Dolphins' NRL squad was unheralded young hooker Harrison Graham.
The back-rower's signing comes in the same week Fa'asuamaleaui signed a four-year extension at Gold Coast and Welch added three years to his deal at the Storm.
With Brisbane forward Pat Carrigan and North Queensland flyer Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow also knocking back the Dolphins' overtures to re-sign with their existing clubs, news of Kaufusi's signing was a welcome boost.
Bennett's attentions will now turn to other targets including more Maroons talent in Cameron Munster and Kalyn Ponga, while another Storm premiership player in Brandon Smith is also available.
"We're not going to get all Queensland players but I'd like to bring back as many as I possibly can because they understand about the state, they understand what it all means," Bennett said.
Australian Associated Press