COARLW: A Favourite Returns
Monday 11 February 2013 3:48 PM
Brett Finch is a three decade footballer (to steal a line from the man himself). Having made his NRL debut back in 1999 as a sprightly 17 year old, he now finds himself in Melbourne for a second stay, a little older, a little wiser, but arguably no less sprightly.
He’s seen a few clubs in his fourteen years, but he is thrilled to once again call Melbourne home. Given this vast experience, it’s no small achievement that we here in little, ol’ Melbourne have won his heart.
This is Finchy’s second stint in Melbourne – he recently returned from a chilly, two-season adventure in the Super League, playing for Wigan. Sound familiar? It’s the same cross-equator roundtrip that Hoff made; Finchy just took his time and savoured the experience a little longer.
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And now he returns down under with a renewed appreciation for our brilliant climate, as well as a passport full of stamps from the trips he was able to take during this time – Italy, Spain and France, to name a few. This, he says, was a highlight.
European jaunts aside, he’s back here in Melbourne now, and he couldn’t be happier.
On a professional level, he loves this place because he believes that everybody is perpetually looking for ways to improve. And he’s not just talking about the coaching staff and players, he’s talking about everyone involved in the club, from the entire football department to the hard-working staff in the front office. It’s an unexpected approach for a club that has seen so much recent success – you might be forgiven for thinking that they’d all be taking it easy for a while.
On a personal level, he was really happy to be re-joining this particular group of players. He acknowledges that aside from success, a great playing group is the key factor in his enjoyment of any footy experience and this is definitely the case in Melbourne. Finchy morphs into a proud-big-brother-type (the sibling, not the reality TV show) when he talks about this playing group. He marvels at the progress of the ‘young kids’ – Duff, Jesse, Gaz and Kevvie, for example – and he’s thrilled that in his time away many of them have matured into representative-level footballers.
I asked him if there was anything else he had noticed had changed in his two years away.
“There’s more wives and kids,” he said, completely serious.
Finchy wonders whether his Melbourne friends were just waiting for their fun-loving teammate to move on before they settled down and got serious.
Incidentally, Hoff proposed to me the day after he had first spent a night out with Finchy. He has always joked that it took Hoff just one night of observing Finchy’s single antics for him to knuckle down and pop the question. (Hoff swears there was a little more preparation than that.)
And it seems that Finchy’s heartfelt love for Melbourne is by no means unrequited.
On a serious note, the whole football department would no doubt be thrilled to have such a quality player back in the fold, adding vital depth to our backs for the season. More than that, fourteen years in professional rugby league have afforded Finchy a wealth of experience and knowledge, and the entire team can use this to their advantage.
The boys are thrilled to welcome their good mate and instant mood-lightener back in the sheds. Finchy is renowned for his sense of humour and quick wit, although he would never acknowledge this himself. He prefers instead to specialise in art of self-depreciation for mass entertainment. It may seem to be a small thing, but many of the boys would argue that the ability to laugh is sometimes necessary to ensure sanity in the sometimes high-pressure world of professional sport. It’s a role the Finchy fills with ease, and probably without realising it.
And finally, I’m personally delighted to have Finchy back too. He will occasionally drop around for dinner, and he, Hoff and I alternate watching ESPN with reminiscing about the good old days in Wigan. As we do this, Finchy profusely compliments my cooking (he is exceptionally easy to please), so the whole exercise is really good for my self esteem.
Actually, who am I kidding? They watch EPSN – I generally tune out or wonder idly whether there is anything about global sport that these two don’t know. The pair of them have insatiable appetites for sport and near encyclopaedic global sports knowledge. For Finchy, US sports are a favourite – the NFL in particular (team currently undetermined), as well as the NBA (Lakers) and Major League Baseball (Yankees). Finchy is also currently without an official AFL team – although he enjoys the sport – and is the subject of regular peer pressure from various teammates to join their respective bandwagons.
During the course of our chat we spent a lot of time talking about why Finchy was so happy to return to Melbourne, but when I asked him about any potential downside to being here, he would not be drawn. He simply doesn’t have a bad word to say about this place and his enthusiasm is infectious. Finchy may joke around a lot, but you know he is deadly serious when he talks about his love for this club, and his gratitude that he has been able to find his way back again.
Frankly, I think it works both ways – he’s happy to be back, and I think I can safely say we’re all pretty happy to have him back too.
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