He has a host of State of Origin games to his name, and has been a top centre in the game for both club and state for the last couple of years, but with Dane Nielsen off-contract at season’s end, he will be chased hard by several rival NRL clubs.
Whilst the Storm are keen to retain Nielsen on their books beyond the 2012 season, they know that doing so will be easier said than done – though in their favour, the 26-year old has said that he would ideally, like to stay with the club.
“Hopefully I get to stay here with Cooper but you never know what happens,” Nielsen said.
“I’d like the opportunity to stay down here, it’s my second home and this is my fifth season with Melbourne, so hopefully I can get another couple of years here, but I have to play good footy to get a new contract, whether it’s here or another club.
“I’ve had a little bit of interest from clubs knowing I’m coming off contract, so I’ll see how the year goes.
“I’m in no rush to sign anything, I’ll play good footy and when the times come to sort my future out, I’ll talk to my manager.”
With Nielsen having played Origin, he knows that with the return of Justin Hodges to the NRL, that will not be an easy task – but he knows that biding his time is crucial.
“I just have to bide my time,” he said.
“If the opportunity (to play for the Maroons) came up again I’d make the most of it, but I need to be consistent for Melbourne first.
“I didn’t set myself the goal to play Origin last year, I just wanted to play good footy, but a couple of injuries came about and I ended up playing two games.
“I loved every minute of it. It was a shame to miss the third game (following Hodges’ return) but just getting involved in the camp and with an elite group of players, it was a great opportunity for me to learn so much.
“If Origin comes about again this year, I want to be ready to take it.
“I want more consistency this year. I don’t want to go out, play two good games and then a few bad ones . . . the rep stars do the job every week and that’s what I’m aiming at.”