Dale Finucane reveals Craig Fitzgibbon's gesture for wife amid sad NRL retirement call

The Cronulla Sharks player has called time on his NRL career.

Dale Finucane has revealed how concerns from his wife Maddie when he suffered a number of recent concussions sparked the Cronulla Sharks veteran to announce his retirement from the NRL. The 32-year-old was contracted until the end of 2025 with the Sharks, but revealed on Tuesday that he decided to hang up the boots on the advice of medical professionals.

The Sharks forward revealed he's had a 'double-digit' number of concussions throughout his career, which led him to seek advice from doctors after his wife urged him to do so. It was also the concerns that Maddie showed in recent times that led him to make the sad call.

Dale Finucane, pictured here with wife Maddie and their two sons.
Dale Finucane with wife Maddie and their two sons. Image: Maddie Finucane/Getty

“At the end of the day, there was no decision," he said. "The medical advice was that I retire and not continue to play and that was from two medical experts. I spoke to Clint Newton, the CEO of the RLPA and a lawyer with the RLPA, to talk about potential avenues to return to play, but at the end of the day it didn’t come to fruition.

“I’m obviously extremely disappointed about it but I’m excited about the next stage of life as well. It’s been a stringent process to try and tick boxes to try and play but obviously it wasn’t possible. I'm obviously disappointed but I have to put my health first above anything else.

Finucane also revealed that Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon came over to his house to put his wife's mind at ease about what he was going through. "He came over to alleviate any fears that she might have had around what was happening to me and just to give her peace of mind that I wasn't going to be playing until my health was put first," he said. "I can't say that would be the same for every coach to put the man ahead of the player, and I'm super grateful for that."

Dale Finucane in action for the Cronulla Sharks.
Dale Finucane in action for the Cronulla Sharks during his 250th NRL game.

Dale Finucane's emotional tribute to wife Maddie

Finucane described Maddie as his 'rock' and paid tribute to the support she has shown him throughout his career. "She has been at the forefront of wanting to put my health first before anything else," he said. "Over the last few concussions I've suffered she's probably showed a lot more worry around the frequency of which I was getting them and potentially how easy I was getting them.

"I've been difficult to live with over the last 13 years with all of the routines and structure I've had in my life. And she's had to put up a lot with me. It's a thankless job but I'm so appreciative - all the while raising out two young boys. I'll be forever indebted to her and I'm excited for the next chapter of my lofe with my wife and two boys."


NRL world pays tribute to Dale Finucane after sad retirement call

Finucane missed the end of the 2023 season with a torn bicep and fractured his eye socket earlier this season, restricting him to just three games in 2024. He had returned to full contact training in recent weeks but wasn't named in the Sharks' side to face North Queensland in round seven.

The 32-year-old played 251 first-grade games, with the Sharks celebrating his 250th appearance in their win over Canterbury in the second round. He played five State of Origin games for NSW and has also represented Canterbury (66 games) and Melbourne (152 games). He won the 2017 and 2020 premierships while playing for the storm.

Dale Finucane, pictured here in the NRL grand final in 2017.
Dale Finucane in the NRL grand final in 2017 with the Melbourne Storm.

Fitzgibbon said the decision to sign Finucane in 2022 was “one of the most important signings the Sharks have ever made”. He added: “You are always judged by the 80 minutes, but as far as how you want to carry yourself as a sportsman, a rugby league player and a professional I feel like Dale’s delivered in spades.

“He’s changed the fabric in how the young blokes prepare for a game of footy and the way they carry themselves. Even right up to today, he was so concerned over Stoney’s debut (Sam Stonestreet) and Braden (Trindall's) 100th game, that he held back the information (of his retirement) because he wanted to put the club first. He’s such a great man, wonderful man and selfless as well. The club will never forget his contribution.”

Cronulla CEO Dino Mezzatesta said in a statement: "Dale is a revered leader and will always hold a special place in our history as Shark #549. His passion and dedication are the stuff of legend. Whilst no longer playing, he won't be lost to the Sharks. Dale will take up a role working with the club in various capacities. It's a premature end to a stellar playing career, but we congratulate Dale on his plethora of achievements and wish him, his wife Maddie and children Freddy and Tommy all the very best in their next chapter."

with AAP