Finucane pushing for higher honours
While the rest of the star-studded Storm forward pack is looking ahead to the traditional Anzac Test, Melbourne lock forward Dale Finucane is eyeing off a different representative jersey this season.
Finucane has featured in the past two AAMI Country v City fixtures and is a near certainty to be included in the Country squad for next month's clash in Tamworth.
The annual event is something the Bega Roosters junior holds close to his heart, comparing it to the honour associated with representing one's country.
"I'd love to represent Country again. It has been a great camp the last couple of years I've been involved and it's a concept I feel strongly about as well," the Storm No.13 said.
"I think it's like anyone who represents their area, whether it's a New Zealander representing their country or [someone] representing Australia.
"Obviously that's where I've come from – country New South Wales – and I know it's a different pathway for country guys making it into the NRL. It's a bigger move for most country guys because it's obviously a lot further away from what they're used to."
At 24 years of age, Finucane is in the prime of his career and has been touted by some as a possible bolter for the NSW side in this year's State of Origin series.
It's an arena the former Bulldog would love to be a part of one day, but knows he will need to let his football do the talking if he wants to be considered.
"Obviously that's the decision of the powers above and the coaches and that sort of thing. I just want to play good footy and obviously any other accolades will take care of themselves after that if it's to be," Finucane said.
The two-time NYC Team of the Year member has already received glowing endorsements from his coach at the Storm – and former NSW Blues mentor – Craig Bellamy, but it's the praise from former housemate Josh Jackson that could be most telling.
The Bulldogs back-rower played in all three State of Origin games in 2015 and told NRL.com he believes his former Canterbury comrade deserves a shot in this year's series.
"He's been playing awesome footy this year so I think higher rep honours are pretty close for Dale," Jackson said.
"He's played a few City v Country games but I think he'll be getting pretty close to a Blues jersey this year. I'd love to see him there. He's a hard worker on and off the field and I think the way he's been playing this year he'll be close."
Before he can worry about all that, Finucane is busy making sure he puts his best foot forward for the Storm in the NRL.
With Ryan Hinchcliffe no longer at the club, the 24-year-old big man has picked up some of the slack around the ruck which was there for everyone to see with season highs in metres made (142) and tackles made (54) against the Tigers on the weekend.
Finucane played 60 or more minutes six times last season with Melbourne and has already reached that figure on five occasions in 2016, averaging nearly three more tackles a game.
The Junior Kangaroos representative puts his increased output down to the faith shown in him by Bellamy.
"Craig has given me some decent minutes to play this year and I've been really happy to play those minutes… I'm progressing how I'd like to down here in Melbourne."