Dale Finucane is being hailed as one of the country’s best rugby league footballers by the CRL.
Just days before his standout showing the NRL grand final, Finucane was awarded the CRL Country Origin Player of the Year award.
Officials said it was a top honour during the special presentation in Sydney and the award for Finucane was even sweeter given the prestigious Country v City was finishing up.
Officials said they were grateful for Finucane taking time out of his grand final preparations to attend the presentation and accept his award – earned for his on and off-field behaviour at the fixture in Mudgee.
Earlier this week, Finucane was still reeling from victory in the grand final.
"This is not something I take for granted and I know people can play whole careers without playing in a grand final," Finucane said.
"To be involved in four and now to finally win one is such a special feeling."
Scoring a four-pointer in the big show was a bonus, but it wasn’t what was driving him on the field.
"It was such an exciting feeling to score in a grand final," he said.
"It did top off a great night for the team, but to be honest I couldn't have cared less if I scored or not – I just really wanted to win for myself and for all of my teammates, especially the guys who are leaving like Cooper Cronk, Jordan McLean, Tohu Harris and Slade Griffin.
"This was such a unique experience as we will never get to play with this playing group again."
Switching from the Cantebury-Bankstown Bulldogs to the Melbourne Storm has been a learning experience, but Finucane said it’s made a massive impact on his career.
He values the structure under coach Craig Bellamy and has undoubtedly become one of the best locks in the NRL.
Already this year he caught the eye of selectors as an outside chance for a NSW Blues jumper and he must surely be in the mix for the early thoughts of next year’s roster.
And the major honours have helped ensure Finucane knows he’s on the right track to joining the sports great elite.
Accepting both his player of the year award, and at the full-time siren on Sunday, Finucane’s trademark beaming grin was inescapable.
The Storm might be losing some of their biggest names, but Finucane is not among them – with a contract extension earlier this year keeping him in the purple and gold until 2021.
“With the caliber of players we have it’s very enticing to stay here and the quality of coach that Craig is made that decision easier,” Finucane said at the time.
And based on his recent successes, it was the right move for one of the league’s emerging greats.