Finch: When second fiddle is first choice
For once in his career Brett Finch isn’t the focal point of his team’s attack. It’s a move that is agreeing with him, as his star continues to rise in Melbourne’s finals campaign.<br><br>But it wasn’t always so.<br><br>Just a few months ago, Brett Finch was staring down the barrel. Daniel Anderson didn’t want him at Parramatta and the enigmatic playmaker was at yet another career crossroads.<br><br>It didn’t look great. Then he was offered a cut-price gig at perennial premiership contenders, Melbourne. Finch took it, and now just the Brisbane Broncos stand between Finch and a third NRL Grand Final.<br><br>And it’s a rejuvenated Finch who is igniting the Storm charge.<br><br>“It’s been a bit of a different year,” muses Finch. “But once I got the opportunity to play down here, to be a part of this team, I jumped at it.”<br><br>“Playing five eighth is a major reason why I came here. We have Cooper Cronk and Cam Smith to look after the kicking and the majority of guiding us around the park, which gives me a bit more freedom without all the pressure.”<br><br>The end result? Finch is enjoying his football again and after a string of commanding performances - where he has been dishing off line break assists like Jason Kidd gives NBA scoring assists - his confidence is up and his combinations with Cronk and Ryan Hoffman are paying dividends.<br><br>“I am enjoying it and that comes with having players like Billy Slater, Cam and Cooper around to take some of the pressure off. As you get a bit older you start to realise the opportunities aren’t going to be there forever and when you get these finals opportunities you have to enjoy and make the most of them.<br><br>“Cooper and I have got things working with Billy and Cam and I feel like I am doing my job by giving the side shape on the left hand side and combining well with Hoff out there. So, yeah I think the combinations are working well.”<br><br>They certainly did against Manly when Finch and Co. destroyed an inept and unsuspecting Manly side, who felt the wrath of a team who had plenty left to prove.<br><br>”While the win was great it wasn’t like the boys went out to get revenge for last year’s Grand Final, it wasn’t talked about. We went out there and performed very well and it was probably our best performance of the season.”<br><br>Melbourne’s combinations will have to be working well again this week as they prepare to take on a red-hot Broncos side, who have won their last seven and are true contenders for the title, even without injured halfback Peter Wallace.<br><br>Arguably Brisbane’s most impressive performance was last weekend when they smashed the Dragons early and didn’t relent. Finch believes they will bring that bash and barge attitude to Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.<br><br>“It’s always a big game when you take on the Broncos and you know they will be ready for it. Obviously they have won seven in a row, so they’re playing pretty good footy right now. Their confidence will be up after the way they beat St George.<br><br>“Their aggression was on another level early on in that game. It’s that time of year when the big boys like to get amongst it, and it’s going to be pretty hard in the middle early on. We have to match them in that area, otherwise it will give the likes of Darren Lockyer plenty of space.”<br><br>Finch still rates Lockyer as the Broncos’ number one danger man, but is also aware of the need to watch out for Dave Taylor on the fringes.<br><br>“Dave Taylor has been a massive standout Brisbane over the last few months of the year, but at the same time, Darren Lockyer is still their key playmaker and the man we need to stop.”<br><br>As for the Broncos’ halves situation, Finch is unsure what they will do and would rather focus on his own sides’ preparation.<br><br>“Obviously we’re not too sure what they’re going to do when they run out there, with their combinations, but we just have to focus on what we’re doing and what we can control. We certainly can’t control who they play where, but we can control what we do.”<br><br>In a game where big match experience will play a part, both sides have it in spades. Melbourne have twelve players who have featured in Grand Finals and eight who have played Origin, while Brisbane have eight players who have been to the final Sunday and seven who have pulled on Origin jerseys. <br><br>Finch himself is a veteran of two grand finals for the Roosters and three Origins for NSW and believes big game experience will count.<br><br>“The experience does prepare you well and the majority of players on both teams this weekend have had a lot of finals experience. Brisbane won it in 2006 and Melbourne did it in 2007. I think it does count for a lot.”<br><br>So if the Storm wins this Saturday night, will Finch relish the challenge of a potential showdown with Parramatta?<br><br>“Potentially, it would be great, but there is every possibility it could be the Dogs playing the Broncos. I’m not looking any further ahead than this week. Two teams will play the Grand Final and two teams’ seasons will be over.”<br><br>That’s how it is in sport and you can expect both Melbourne and Brisbane to fight tooth and nail for a Grand Final berth, but keep one eye on Brett Finch, he might just produce something special.