Daily Mercury - - SPORT - – Gilbert Gardiner

MEL­BOURNE Storm cham­pion Billy Slater has shelved re­tire­ment thoughts to fo­cus on do­ing his bit to keep the club’s pre­mier­ship dream alive.

The reign­ing premier Storm will host the Cronulla Sharks on Fri­day night at AAMI Park in search of a third con­sec­u­tive grand fi­nal ap­pear­ance.

But Slater, who an­nounced his re­tire­ment last month, hasn’t dwelt on the fact his foot­ball mor­tal­ity could be only 80 min­utes away af­ter 16 highly dec­o­rated sea­sons.

“It’s re­ally weird,” Slater said ahead of Fri­day night’s pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal.

“It’s snuck up on me. I haven’t re­ally thought about it.

“My full fo­cus and en­ergy is go­ing into play­ing well. That’s all I want to do.

“I un­der­stand the situation that I’m in, but it doesn’t feel like that situation.

“It doesn’t feel like I’m ap­proach­ing my last ever game ... hope­fully, it’s not.”

Slater helped the Storm move into a 10th pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal in 13 years with another vin­tage per­for­mance last Fri­day week in the club’s come-from-be­hind one-point win over South Syd­ney.

He set up the first of two Su­liasi Vu­ni­valu tries with a dummy and dou­ble-handed over­head pass to re­lease the Fi­jian ex­cite­ment ma­chine in space deep in red zone.

The two-time pre­mier­ship full­back toasted the cru­cial win with team­mates and fam­ily.

“To win the way we did (against Souths), fight­ing back, it just meant a lot,” Slater said. “That’s what you play for, those feel­ings af­ter the game in the dress­ing sheds with your mates singing the song and sit­ting down talk­ing about in­ci­den­tal things that hap­pen.

“I feel very grate­ful to be able to share th­ese mo­ments with my fam­ily.”

Photo: Alex Coppel

END IS NIGH: Billy Slater in front of a mu­ral of him­self at Rich­mond train sta­tion.

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