It’s been an impressive return to the spotlight for Brett Finch, the previously maligned halfback has emerged as the best halfback prospect on the open market as the Eels delay any offer for fear of salary cap breaches. Things may change quickly at Parramatta, with incumbent halfback Tim Smith choosing to go on indefinite leave and forcing the club to make a play for Finch or risk losing two quality players in the same year.
Unwanted by the Roosters after a high profile move from Canberra several years ago, Finch seems to have won the respect of the greater NRL community with some tough performances over the first few rounds of the 2008 NRL. Playing behind a beaten pack and still standing out, making his performances even more impressive.
With Brett Finch and his manager frustrated at the lack of a genuine offer from the Eels, they chose to go to market and test Finch’s value in the open waters. Immediately getting interest, with the St George Illawarra Dragons and even the Melbourne Storm indicating they want to bid on Finch. Certainly a smart play by Finch and his manager to hit the open market at a time when the halfback / five-eighth is playering his best football, stirring up media interest and instantly inflating his price.
His link to the Dragons would complete the family circle – as his father Robert, the referees’ coach, played his entire career at St George.
Wayne Bennett has been in touch with the Dragons about players for 2009 and is reported to have earmarked a number of players of interest.
Former Brisbane rake Luke Priddis, told he was unwanted by Penrith for ’09, could join Bennett at St George Illawarra in 2009 along with current Panthers teammate Luke Rooney.
Broncos number 9 Michael Ennis is also off contract and could weigh into the Dragons’ plans, depending on Priddis’s movements, prop Ben Hannant is also available and, while the Broncos want to renew his deal, he has spoken to the Gold Coast Titans.
While the Dragons’ interest in Finch is understandable, the Storm’s decision to chase is certainly interesting.
The Storm already have a winning halfback in Cooper Cronk and any link to Finch could be suggest that Greg Inglis’s days at pivot could be over.
Inglis has never played as a traditional No.6 in Melbourne’s tailored attacking structure, although he occasionally drifts into second receiver.
That role, however, is filled by an assortment of players, with fullback Billy Slater notably starring over the opening month of the season as he takes a more hands-on role in attack.
Parramatta’s ability to make Finch a competitive offer is contingent on hooker Mark Riddell’s future.
Meanwhile, Roosters’ prop David Shillington has admitted he is likely to be forced out of the club next season as the tri-colours are feeling the salary-cap squeeze that was always going to follow the acquisition of Bulldogs’ Test duo Willie Mason and Mark O’Meley.
It caps a poor week for the 22-year-old giant, who became the first victim of coach Brad Fittler’s stringent alcohol policy, which prohibits drinking on all but one day of the week.