What happened to Wigan’s forgotten Australian star halfback?

Wigan have had plenty of star halfbacks imported from down under. Back in 2007 Trent Barrett was brought to the club and was succeeded by Tim Smith. Nowadays, Jackson Hastings leads the Warriors around the field. But one brilliant Australian stand-off everyone seems to forget played for the Warriors is Brett Finch.

Born in New South Wales to St George centre Robert Finch, it wasn’t long until Finch found himself playing first grade rugby like his dad. He debuted in 1999 as a 17-year-old kid for Canberra Raiders against the team he’d go onto make his name for: the Melbourne Storm. That season he went onto be crowned Canberra’s rookie of the year.

After a few successful seasons in the capital, he took a major step in his career. He was poached by NRL Champions Sydney Roosters ahead of the 2003 season and met future rivals St Helens in the World Club Challenge helping the Roosters to victory.

In 2004 he was wrapped up in a controversy. After having something thrown at him from the crowd against Canterbury, Finch threw a bottle back at supporters. Perhaps justice wasn’t done as he found himself on the losing side of the Grand Final that year against the Bulldogs. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Finch who also lost the previous season’s Grand Final to Penrith.

His up and down career continued into the 2006 State of Origin. He was drafted in late for Game I and proved to be the match winner. However, his performance in Game II wasn’t the best. It culminated in defeat and eventually the Blues’ first series loss since 2001.

Another down followed as his career at Sydney ended with more of a murmur than a shout as he and the Roosters agreed an early termination leading to a move to Paramatta. However, things only got worse for Finch once he made the switch to Paramatta. Coach Daniel Anderson released him from his deal in 2009 stating that “he may not be the right person to take the club forward.”

He was then poached by Melbourne Storm. It was a perfect move for both parties as it rekindled his career and led to great success in 2009. Finch was outstanding as his current side helped him avenge his Eels departure as Melbourne claimed their second NRL title in three seasons against Paramatta.

That was the real high point of his career but also set him up for further success. However, it would continue to be sullied by controversy. 2010 was a rough year for Melbourne as they were punished for salary cap breaches and denied a chance to play in the play-offs at the end of the season. As the Storm set about fixing the problem Finch was one of the players let go following the emergence of the impressive Gareth Widdop.

In July, it was announced that he would be joining Wigan in 2011 along with fellow Melbourne teammates Jeff Lima and Ryan Hoffman. A reigning world champion upon arrival at Wigan he played in a second consecutive World Club Challenge only this one ended in defeat for Finch and his new team.

Finch guided the Warriors to an impressive season as the reigning Champions did battle with Warrington at the top of the table and he played in Wigan’s Wembley win over Leeds in one of the 21st Century’s finest cup finals.

Many tipped Wigan to find their way back to Old Trafford for the second consecutive season but defeat to St Helens in the semi-final kept him out of the Super League Grand Final. His second season was similarly disappointing despite a brilliant regular season campaign from Finch and his Warriors.

Wigan finished top of the pile but semi-final defeats to Leeds in both the Challenge Cup and Super League left Finch without a Super League title to go with his NRL crown.

After two seasons in Super League, he returned to Melbourne for one final go around. He retired at the end of 2013 and began working for Channel Nine as a side line commentator as well as a panellist for the Footy Show. However, after two years, he left due to mental health issues. He returned to punditry in 2017 with Fox however sadly his mental health problems resurfaced in 2019. But Finch, as he always did as a player, turned things around starting his own podcast called Brett Finch uncensored.

Funnily enough, this week he made headlines on someone else’s podcast. Featuring on Bloke in a Bar, Finch berated the recent decisions of ARLC chairman Peter V’Landys. Finch wasn’t happy with the way in which the NRL has chosen to crack down on contact with the head which led to an absurd amount of charges in last week’s NRL action.

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