Billy Slater aims to trans­fer win­ning NRL for­mula to new AFL role

The Guardian Australia - - Sport -

He has never played an AFL game but rugby league great Billy Slater be­lieves he has plenty to of­fer the ri­val code af­ter join­ing St Kilda in a lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment role.

The un­der-per­form­ing Saints pounced on Slater as soon as he an­nounced his re­tire­ment from the Mel­bourne Storm and he will be­gin work­ing two days a week dur­ing the preseason. Slater is not cut­ting ties with rugby league al­to­gether and will still work with the Storm in a spe­cial­ist coach­ing role.

The 35-year-old says he will look to im­part his knowl­edge to St Kilda about stan­dards, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and match prepa­ra­tion to cre­ate a win­ning cul­ture sim­i­lar to that at the hugely suc­cess­ful Storm.

“I don’t un­der­stand AFL and I don’t come here as a spe­cial­ist AFL coach,” Slater said on Thurs­day. “I think there’s a cor­re­la­tion be­tween the two codes and we can cer­tainly draw some par­al­lels.

“The specifics of the skills of the game are dif­fer­ent but at the end of the day we’re a team try­ing to strive for one goal – it’s about a group of guys try­ing to work hard and be self­less and I don’t think that changes just be­cause it’s a dif­fer­ent code.”

Slater felt the lead­er­ship qual­i­ties he learnt in 16 sea­sons in the NRL were trans­fer­able to AFL, proven in re­verse with former Colling­wood premier­ship cap­tain Nick Maxwell’s work with the Storm.

“Maxy was great at the Storm, cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment to get the best out of our­selves and help­ing de­velop lead­ers into bet­ter lead­ers,” the 35-year-old said. “And with first and sec­ond-year play­ers, just build­ing that con­sis­tency

around their game and the re­sults were shown in 2018.”

He said the first part of his role would be to get to know the St Kilda play­ers dur­ing the pre-sea­son to find out what made the suc­cess-starved club tick – their sin­gle premier­ship dat­ing back to 1966.

Saints foot­ball man­ager Si­mon Leth­lean said Slater’s sig­na­ture was a ma­jor off-sea­son coup. “Billy’s been an im­pres­sive leader in his own right, but he’s also been a key mem­ber of a cul­ture that is highly re­spected across all sports,” Leth­lean said.

“Over the course of the sea­son, we iden­ti­fied that there was an op­por­tu­nity to strengthen our lead­er­ship and de­vel­op­ment pro­grams, and we think Billy can play an im­por­tant role in that.”

Pho­to­graph: Michael Dodge/Getty Im­ages

Billy Slater will still work with Mel­bourne Storm in a spe­cial­ist coach­ing role.

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