No decision to make: concussions end Finucane’s career

Jasper Bruce |

Dale Finucane has played more than 250 NRL games with Cronulla, Canterbury and Melbourne.
Dale Finucane has played more than 250 NRL games with Cronulla, Canterbury and Melbourne.

Multiple concussions were behind Cronulla co-captain Dale Finucane’s decision to immediately retire from the NRL.

The dual premiership-winning middle forward announced his decision at a press conference on Tuesday, saying he was “extremely disappointed” but had little choice other than to call time on his playing career.

Finucane left the field with his latest head knock during Cronulla’s round-three loss to Wests Tigers, the 32-year-old estimating his concussions had numbered in the “double digits” since making his debut at Canterbury in 2012.

He consulted multiple independent doctors, the Rugby League Players Association and its lawyers, former and current players, and the Sharks’ staff to determine whether he could play on.

“I exhausted every avenue,” Finucane said.

“There was no decision to be made. The medical advice was that I retire.

“I’m a bit numb to the feeling at the moment, it probably hasn’t quite hit me because we’ve been going through quite a stringent process since the Tigers game.”

The Sharks’ staff and players crammed into the club’s media room on their day off on Tuesday to support Finucane, who finalised his decision last Thursday.

He joins other recent players Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend and Andrew Davey in retiring prematurely due to concussion.

A team man until the end, Finucane did not tell his teammates he would be retiring until Tuesday morning, afraid any earlier announcement might distract from Braden Hamlin-Uele’s 100 game-milestone and Samuel Stonestreet’s NRL debut in round seven.

Dale Finucane in action for Cronulla against the Dolphins.
Dale Finucane played more than 250 NRL games with Cronulla, Canterbury and Melbourne. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

Revered for his uncompromising work ethic and physicality, Finucane has been a “symbol of success” at Cronulla, coach Craig Fitzgibbon said.

“It’s one of the most significant (signings) our club will ever make,” Fitzgibbon said of bringing Finucane to the Sharks in 2022.

“To have players like Dale that come along that embody that team spirit, and then is just a complete savage in every fashion. He’s such a great man.

“Our club will never forget his time here.”

AAP understands the Sharks have not yet determined whether the remainder of Finucane’s contract, which was due to expire at the end of 2025, can be shifted from the salary cap.

Cronulla are in the process of finding him a job at the club.

When asked whether he would consider pivoting into coaching, Finucane looked over at the bald Fitzgibbon and quipped, “I like my hair”.

Finucane said he had not yet reflected on his career highlights, but made mention of his sons joining him on the field before his 250th game in round two.

That win over Canterbury would be Finucane’s penultimate NRL appearance.

Cronulla's Dale Finucane with his children at Shark Park.
Finucane with his children before his 250th NRL game, for Cronulla against the Bulldogs in March. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

Finucane played in six grand finals across 13 seasons in the NRL, winning the 2017 and 2020 deciders with Melbourne.

He represented NSW in five State of Origin matches and was a part of two series wins.

Injuries hampered him in recent years, the 32-year-old missing the end of last season with a bicep issue and spending time sidelined with a facial fracture in 2024.

“I’m disappointed about the premature end to how it’s finished, but I’m grateful and excited for the next chapter in my life,” he said.

“I will be forever grateful for the game of rugby league and everything that it’s given me.”