Billy Slater

About In­n­is­fail Si­t­u­ated in the heart of the Cas­sowary Coast, In­n­is­fail is 90 kilo­me­tres south of Cairns in Far North Queens­land. A pros­per­ous town with Art Deco flair, it’s an agri­cul­tural and aqua­cul­tural cen­tre, sur­rounded by rain­for­est, pris­tine water

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What are your fond­est mem­o­ries of In­n­is­fail?

I loved the beach, the fish­ing, the creeks and the cli­mate. It was al­ways ex­cit­ing when the an­nual show came around.

De­scribe grow­ing up there.

Rid­ing my bike around to mates’ houses and play­ing footy in the back­yard was pretty much my child­hood. It was a great place to grow up. Rugby league was huge – just about all the kids played. I de­vel­oped a pas­sion for horses through my grand­fa­ther, worked as a sta­ble­hand and got a bro­ken-down ex-race­horse called Whiskey. I rode her through the cane fields and we did showjump­ing. She was prob­a­bly my best friend as a kid.

What took you away?

I left school at 16 and went to Syd­ney to work as a sta­ble­hand and ride track­work for Gai Water­house at Tul­loch Lodge. It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence.

How of­ten do you go back?

Mum and Dad still live in In­n­is­fail and I go back as of­ten as I can – it will al­ways be home to me. I was born on the Sun­shine Coast but we moved to In­n­is­fail when I was three.

Has it changed much?

Well, they have traf­fic lights now! Cyclone Larry hit In­n­is­fail in 2006 and many of the old build­ings were de­stroyed. A lot of it had to be re­built. It was a real test for the re­gion and brought the peo­ple closer to­gether.

What’s your favourite thing to do there now?

Catch­ing up with fam­ily is the main rea­son I go back. I love get­ting out on the reef and div­ing and fish­ing. The old man likes to get down to the Gar­radunga Ho­tel and I en­joy sit­ting at the bar hav­ing a beer and a chat with him and a few of the lo­cal farm­ers. My favourite place is Josephine Falls – you walk through rain­for­est to get to it and there are rocks that form a big nat­u­ral water slide. I love tak­ing my fam­ily [wife Ni­cole and chil­dren Tyla Rose, 8, and Jake, 7] there.

Is there any­thing you miss about In­n­is­fail?

Be­ing out­doors and the cli­mate. I took the beauty of the place for granted and I re­ally missed it when I moved to Mel­bourne. There are so many stun­ning spots, like the beach at Etty Bay where cas­sowaries walk right past you.

What are some things every visi­tor should do?

Get down to Cal­len­dar Park and watch our league side, the In­n­is­fail Leprechauns, go around – they get a lot of sup­port and it’s a great at­mos­phere. Spend a day at Josephine Falls or one of the other creeks or wa­ter­holes. Paronella Park in Mena Creek, just south-west of town, has beau­ti­ful wa­ter­falls and rain­for­est. And, of course, there’s the Great Bar­rier Reef – it takes just half an hour or so to get out there. Spend a day on Dunk Is­land [off nearby South Mis­sion Beach] if you can.

Mel­bourne Storm player Billy Slater’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy is out now.

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