A TEAM-MATE’S misfortune has given him the glimpse of a fairytale send-off and Melbourne Storm favourite Brett Finch is not guaranteed to play on next year even if the club asks him to.
Finch, 31, lines up against the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday with Melbourne’s big three – Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith – back from Origin duty and looks set to wear the no.6 jersey for the rest of the season.
After spending most of the season in the lower grades, Finch’s opportunity came with regular five-eighth Gareth Widdop’s dislocated hip suffered on June 24. He is yet to be offered a contact for next year.
“In the end, it will be Finchy’s decision rather than the club’s,” said the former NSW half’s agent, Steve Gillis.
“We’ve had some dialogue with the club but there has been no decision from them. We might know more in the next two three weeks.
“I spoke to Brett this week and he is comfortable to take his time over it. They might ask him to play on and he agrees. They might ask him to and he might decide against it.
“I guess it’s something like 50-50.”
The former Canberra halfback won a grand final with Melbourne in 2009, before joining Wigan where he pocketed a Challenge Cup winners medal in 2011.
The Storm held a match-eve training session in Auckland yesterday and reported no changes. The Warriors have the second best record, after Canterbury, in the NRL against the World Champions.
While this is often put down to their unpredictability, Warriors prop Sam Rapira insists the opposite is the case.
“(It’s) just applying pressure,” Rapira told NewsTalk ZB on Saturday. “When we have beaten them, we haven’t tried to score.
“It’s just come off our structure and when we’ve pushed that extra pass or that miracle ball, we end up losing.
“I think, as long as we stick to a plan and just keep in it for the full 80, we’ve got every chance of winning.
In form Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson has been identified as the danger man by Storm coach Craig Bellamy.
“If we get some number around him and put some pressure on him, hopefully he stuffs up,” Back rower Kevin Proctor said on the Storm’s website.
Teams for the match, which kicks off at Mt Smart Stadium at 12.05pm (Victorian time), are:
WARRIORS: Kevin Locke; Ngani Laumape, Dane Neilsen, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei; Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson; Elijah Taylor, Simon Mannering (c), Feleti Mateo, Ben Matulino, Nathan Friend, Sam Rapira. Res: Suaia Matagi, Jacob Lillyman, Todd Lowrie, Dominique Peyroux.
MELBOURNE: Billy Slater; Sisa Waqa, Will Chambers, Maurice Blair, Justin O’Neill; Brett Finch, Cooper Cronk; Ryan Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hoffman, Kevin Proctor, Bryan Norrie, Cameron Smith (c), Jesse Bromwich. Res: Jordan McLean, Tohu Harris, Siosaia Vave, Slade Griffin, Tim Glasby, Ben Hampton (two to be omitted).
Referees: Ben Cummins/Henry Perenara