MIN­UTES WITH SMITHY

Sunday Herald Sun - - Sport -

Give it up? Not re­ally. I have never re­ally sat down and thought I might hand this over. I pre­fer to be cap­tain and that is what helps me per­form each week. The club is do­ing a great job with our “Emerg­ing Lead­ers”, guys like Tohu Har­ris, Tim Glasby and Dale Fin­u­cane who has just moved into the lead­er­ship group. As long as they con­tinue to work hard and de­velop skills then one day they will have the op­por­tu­nity to cap­tain the club. Not at all. I can’t speak for Billy (Slater, be­low) or Cooper (Cronk) but for my­self, I don’t re­ally think about re­tire­ment at all — cer­tainly not putting an end date on it. At this stage, I’ve got this sea­son to play and next sea­son to play with Storm. I’m ex­cited about those two sea­sons. We have just come off a mi­nor pre­mier­ship and grand fi­nal. I’m not too wor­ried about the fu­ture as yet. My main fo­cus is play­ing well in the pre­sea­son and play­ing well this year. Joe Stim­son. He has cer­tainly been on my radar for the past 12 months as far as get­ting into the first grade side. I think that will hap­pen this year. He re­ally ticks all the boxes for what Craig Bel­lamy looks for in a first­grader. He works ex­tremely hard at the lit­tle things at train­ing, never takes short­cuts so that’s some­thing that Craig al­ways looks for. Craig Bel­lamy and Alas­tair Clark­son are good friends. They are quite sim­i­lar as coaches and I’m just hop­ing he (Bel­lamy) does not wield the axe on a cou­ple of the older play­ers like what hap­pened at Hawthorn. They are a qual­ity out­fit and or­gan­i­sa­tion. They’ve got won­der­ful play­ers and lead­ers who raise the bar every year — they don’t set­tle for any­thing less so I don’t think it mat­ters who they have on their list. Hope­fully, they can lift the flag at the end of this year and so can Storm as well. MEL­BOURNE Storm is pre­pared to go into the NRL sea­son with­out its su­per­star full­back Billy Slater.

Slater, 33, has trained strongly in re­cent weeks but Storm will not rush him back into the side.

Storm cap­tain Cameron Smith said Slater would de­cide on his come­back.

“There is no dead­line and there is no par­tic­u­lar date set that he will be back,” Smith said.

“No one is go­ing to put any pres­sure on Bill to play any of the pre-sea­son games or cer­tainly Round 1,” Smith said.

The pre­mier­ship full­back has played eight games in the past two sea­sons due to shoul­der in­juries.

Slater rushed back last year for the sea­son opener, only to dam­age his sur­gi­cally re­paired left shoul­der. He did not play again. “The most im­por­tant thing for Bill is that he is con­fi­dent within him­self to get back on the field again,” Smith said.

“All signs are look­ing very pos­i­tive for him. He’s train­ing ex­tremely well. He’s not sit­ting out of any of our ses­sions (and) he is be­ing in­cluded in a bit of our con­tact work as well.”

Smith was con­fi­dent Storm would again see the best of Slater de­spite his long lay-off.

“He’s not go­ing to go out there and think about the shoul­der at all,” Smith, 33, said.

“He goes out there and thinks about the role that he has to play and he does it (at) a mil­lion miles an hour.

“The play­ers and par­tic­u­larly the fans have been robbed of watch­ing Billy Slater streak down the field like he used to do.

“But I think the most im­por­tant thing for our club, our fans, is ob­vi­ously to be pa­tient be­cause when he does feel the right time to come back, I think you’ll see him play­ing his best foot­ball again.” STORM yes­ter­day opened its NRL Auck­land Nines cam­paign with an 18-4 loss to Bris­bane Bron­cos.

Flyer Josh Addo-Carr im­pressed on de­but with an im­pres­sive try and trysav­ing tackle dur­ing the sec­ond half.

Storm bounced back later, beat­ing Wests Tigers 14-6 at Eden Park. gil­bert.gar­diner@news.com.au

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