Melbourne are resigned to an uphill battle to retain Dale Finucane with the Storm co-captain meeting with at least two NRL rivals recently as he explores his market value.
NRL.com understands that Finucane's priority is still to finish his career with Melbourne, however, several moving pieces in the Storm's tight salary cap have held the premiers back from tabling a respectable offer at this stage.
Finucane is understood to have met with at least two rival clubs with that in mind, while North Queensland, Canterbury and Wests Tigers are among those with the 29-year-old on their recruitment radars.
Now in his 10th NRL season, Finucane's preference is for a three or four-year deal that would potentially be his last contract.
The Storm are keen to retain Finucane but have a glut of top-flight forwards as well as Brandon Smith's contract situation complicating their roster planning.
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The Kiwi international is expected to stay put for 2022 with rival suitors at this stage unable to offer up the suitable player swap option Melbourne have required to consider releasing Smith early.
Storm officials declined to comment on Finucane's future when contacted this week.
Privately they acknowledge his attraction as a recruit for any rebuilding club given Finucane's strong character, consistency and status as four-game NSW Origin middle.
Melbourne are also comfortable with the open dialogue between Finucane's management and the club around his talks with rival sides.
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Finucane returned from a calf injury – his second in the past year – two weeks ago and is in no rush to sort his future given his status as one of the game's most consistent middle forwards.
"I had a conversation earlier in the year with [Storm football manager] Frank Ponissi in regards to staying at the club," Finucane told Triple M on the weekend.
"Obviously they would like to keep me at the club moving forward. For me now it's just about letting my manager take care of those sort of things behind the scenes.
"I didn't particularly want to have a conversation until we had something to decide with it sitting in front of us.
"At the moment I'm waiting for a term and an offer so I'm letting that pan out.
"Coming off the back of an injury was a little bit timely, so hopefully that's happening in the near future."
Finucane will come off the bench for Melbourne in Thursday's clash with South Sydney at Stadium Australia.
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