Brandon Smith set to remain at Melbourne Storm after Finucane exit

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Brandon Smith of the Storm claps during the warm-up before the round 11 NRL match against the Canberra Raiders.
Melbourne Storm utility Brandon Smith likely to stay in Melbourne and play in the no.13 jersey. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The Block of Cheese is not about to go off.

Dale Finucane's exit has officially ended any hope rival clubs had of luring sought-after Storm utility Brandon Smith away from Melbourne.

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The Tigers, Bulldogs, Titans and Brisbane headed the list of suitors for Smith's signature, but they are now wasting their time.

The money freed up from Finucane's exit will allow Melbourne to beef-up their offer to retain Smith beyond 2022 after initially allowing him to seek a release at the end of this season, should a suitable player-swap be arranged with another club.

The Kiwi was restless at the time his release request was submitted, believing the hooking role he coveted was Harry Grant's for the rest of the decade.

It was enough for him to seriously consider leaving.

But with Finucane heading to Cronulla next year, Smith can now fill a Josh Hodgson-like role and split his time between hooker and lock.

Former Storm skipper Cameron Smith, who is still close to the Storm camp, confirmed as much this week after hearing of Finucane's departure.

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"(This) is the exact reason Melbourne didn't hold on to Dale Finucane," Smith told Radio SEN.

"Dale's a much loved player at the club. The in-house joke is he's Craig Bellamy's third child – that's how close those two guys are.

"It's a clear indication that to let one of the favourite sons of the Melbourne Storm go (is) to release money for Brandon Smith.

"He's hot on the market for anyone looking for a dummy half slash ruck player.

"With Dale leaving as a (number) 13, keeping Brandon Smith and upgrading his contract and keeping him long term to play that dual role of nine and 13 (confirms) exactly what Melbourne's plans are."

Cleary's return on hold for now at Panthers

The string of wins Penrith banked in the first half of the year is the reason Penrith coach Ivan Cleary is unlikely to gamble on an early return for son and star half-back Nathan.

There was talk early in the week Nathan may make his comeback for Saturday night's grand final re-match with Melbourne, but Ivan quickly poured cold Oak on that.

The last thing the Panthers No.7 needs is to take his bung shoulder and lead a depleted side into battle with the best and most physical team in the competition.

So if not this week, when does Ivan press "confirm' on a return?

Isaah Yeo and Nathan Cleary watch on during the warm-up before the round 14 NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Penrith Panthers at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, on June 11, 2021, in Sydney, Australia.
Nathan Cleary (centre) may be put on ice for another couple of weeks. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The word out of Penrith is not for at least another couple of weeks, if not longer.

Thanks to their 12-0 start to the season – on top of an undefeated run through July – the Panthers sit on 34 points and are practically a lock for a top four spot.

They can’t win the premiership without Cleary so why risk him until it's absolutely necessary?

RTS exit raises questions over Warriors' intentions

We know there's more hope of Addin Fonua-Blake winning the rhythm gymnastics at Tokyo 2020 than the Warriors making the finals, but what happened to the old 'we'll keep fighting while we remain a mathematical chance' cliché?

The New Zealanders are six points outside the eight with 12 points still to play for but have basically racked the cue in releasing match-winning skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck early.

What do fans reckon? Are the Warriors just being realistic or does it suggest a lack of ruthlessness?

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