Local junior Kurt Donoghoe is still pinching himself.
The former Central Newcastle Butcher Boy joined NRL newcomers Dolphins on a train-and-trial contract at the start of last season and finished 2023 by making seven appearances and a Test debut.
The 22-year-old, who played for the Knights in the 2019 NRL Touch Premiership, forced his way into the round one team following an impressive pre-season.
And, he never looked back.
“When I began, I didn’t really know what was next for me,” Donoghoe said.
“I was preparing to go up to Rockhampton… but I ended up having the best year of my life with all that happened.
“I’m just super grateful for everything and super grateful for the club.
“I suppose the mindset I had when I arrived [at the Dolphins] was to fight every day.
“You know, I had nothing to lose.
“I came up here (Queensland) with one goal and that was to stay on board with the Dolphins.
“So, every day, I turned up, challenged myself and wanted to impress everyone.
“I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable here at the moment.
“Sure, I played a few matches during the season, however I definitely wasn’t satisfied with how I played or how many games I got.
“In my mind, I’m still fighting for everything.”
Donoghoe’s also looking to replicate that form again in 2024.
Already the Dolphins appear stronger with the likes of Herbie Farnworth (Broncos), Thomas Flegler (Broncos) and Jake Averillo (Bulldogs) joining the fold.
“I’m still hungry and just want to put my best foot forward for this pre-season,” he said.
“Honestly, I have the same mindset.
“I’m currently training at five-eighth, with a bit of hooker thrown in.
“That way it just gives me options to fulfil that utility role as well.
“I think it’s my best asset for the boys and, after talking to the some of the coaching staff, they believe that’s what they think I’m best at, too.”
The highlight for Donoghoe was running onto the field to represent Fiji in the Pacific Cup.
The talented youngster, who qualified for the Bati through his grandmother, scored two tries in the side’s 43-16 win over Papua New Guinea.
“Playing for Fiji has been a goal of a mine for a while,” he said.
“It was super important to me, representing my grandmother and that part of the family.
“It’s something I’m going to cherish forever and I still get chills thinking about that day and that camp.
“I can’t wait to be back around those boys and playing for them.
“It was certainly a special feeling.”
Bati assistant coach Matt Hartigan, who works for the Dolphins in recruitment and development, said Donoghoe was the type of player who other players wanted to play with.
“From the moment Wayne (Bennett) came in, he was looking for a Dolphins-style player and Kurt ticked all the boxes leading into round one,” he explained.
“He subsequently picked up a debut because of how he trained and the trial form that he produced.
“As soon as he came into this camp, he just bought into everything that it means to be a Fiji Bati player.
“When he plays direct and he gets the ball in his hands, he’s got the creativity to make the guys around him look good.”
- With Brad Walter (NRL)
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