Heartfelt letters inspire Melbourne Storm to premiership glory

Focused: Dale Finucane was impressive off the bench for the Storm in Sunday's grand final. Picture: NRL Imagery/Gregg Porteous.
Focused: Dale Finucane was impressive off the bench for the Storm in Sunday's grand final. Picture: NRL Imagery/Gregg Porteous.

Dale Finucane has revealed a heartfelt letter from his cousin as the inspiration for Sunday's grand final performance.

The Bega product was among Melbourne's best in the 26-20 win over the Panthers, working tirelessly in 52 minutes off the bench.

In their preparations for the decider, the players were asked to choose a person close to them to write a letter they would read before the game.

Some opted for friends and family, others chose an idol. Fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen received a note from mentor Billy Slater.

For Finucane, it was his older cousin Michael.

"I actually went for a little bit of a different person," Finucane said. "I knew what I'd get from my parents, they're very proud and that would've been reflected in the letter.

"I went for a cousin of mine, Michael Finucane. He wrote a letter mainly because I didn't know what I'd receive from him. It could've been a funny letter, it could've been a serious letter. It was a good mix of both.

"I'm very glad that was the way that I went because I had a little bit of a laugh at the start of the letter and got a little bit deeper as the letter went on."

Born one year apart, the pair grew up together on the South Coast.

Finucane looked up to his cousin, who was a talented footballer in his own right.

A tall forward, Michael played Toyota Cup for Cronulla and first grade for Tathra in Group 16.

While he now lives in Newcastle working in the mines, the pair remain close and Michael's words helped inspire his younger cousin to a second NRL premiership.

"We grew up together, spent a lot of our childhood together, stayed in touch and we're very close away from footy," Dale said. "He's someone who is very close to me, so I'm very happy with the choice I made.

"There was a fair bit of emotion. My letter was a good mix of emotion and a bit of fun as well. I can't speak for what other people's letters were, but there were some emotional guys in there."

While the heartfelt messages brought calm to Finucane and his teammates in the lead up to the grand final, the players were anything but calm in the dying minutes.

Reduced to 12 men and with the Panthers mounting a furious comeback, the Storm were desperately trying to hold on to a rapidly diminishing lead.

The match was set up for a frantic finish when Brandon Smith was also sin binned, with Nathan Cleary crossing to cut the deficit to 6.

It was fitting that such a wild season featured a chaotic end, Penrith left with one last play to force extra-time.

"There was only three seconds on the clock, 11 players on the field, everyone was out of position at that point. We were a little bit unaware of what we were doing.

"In saying that, we only had to defend that one play, so you could see watching that last stanza of the game how hard everyone worked just in that one play. It came down to that in the end, that one play.

"If they scored and kicked a goal, we go to extra time and anything can happen."

This story Heartfelt letters inspire Melbourne Storm to premiership glory first appeared on Bega District News.