YEARS of hard work came to fruition for Dale Finucane on Saturday night.
Finucane, 20, made his long-awaited NRL debut for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs against South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The former Bega Rooster couldn’t have started his career in more exciting fashion as the Bulldogs won a thriller, 23-18.
Scores were locked at 18-all with three minutes remaining, before a Krisnan Inu field goal and David Stagg try secured victory.
While he was named on television as a “late replacement” for the injured Greg Eastwood, Finucane said he found out about his selection last Wednesday.
“I was over the moon and I called my family,” he said.
“It’s something I’ve been working towards ever since I was at home – all the years of training have paid off.
“It’s everything I’ve wanted to do and it’s a dream come true.”
It has been a long road to the top for Finucane, who joined the Bulldogs in 2009.
He progressed through the SG Ball, Toyota Cup and NSW Cup ranks, before finally being elevated to the first grade squad at the start of the year.
In April (BDN, 5/4), Finucane expressed his desire to make his NRL debut.
He was forced to wait a little longer for his first taste on Saturday night – he didn’t take part in the first half.
He said he was “anxious to get out on the field” during the first half, running up and down the sideline, and working on the exercise bike to keep warmed up.
Finucane was finally brought on in the 48th minute and he didn’t wait long to make his impact felt, gaining 10 or so metres from his first hit-up.
He said it was an “exciting, but surreal feeling” to come onto the field alongside the likes of livewire fullback Ben Barba.
Rabbitohs lining up to tackle Finucane included stars Greg Inglis, Dave Taylor and Sam Burgess.
“Even though the intensity had gone out of the game a bit by the time I came on, I was running on adrenaline,” he said.
Finucane spent 26 minutes on the field during the second half, gaining 46 metres from five hit-ups and making six tackles.
He said it was a perfect way to start his NRL career.
“It was a thrilling win in the circumstances,” he said.
“The Rabbitohs got the first two tries, then to fight back and kick a field goal and score a try to win the game – it was a great first hit-out.”
While pleased to finally make his debut, Finucane remained philosophical about the future.
He said the Bulldogs have a bye this round, so he will return to the NSW Cup this weekend.
He said future NRL appearances rely on the fitness of the Bulldogs forward pack.