OUR BIG SON-DAY
Bolton and Slater senior reunite for beers and cheers
FORTY years ago Ron Slater (left) and Peter Bolton (far left) came to blows on the football field.
This week the two proud fa- thers of two of the Far North’s best rugby league products – Storm fullback Billy Slater and Cowboys prop Scott Bolton – buried the hatchet, reminisced and prepared to cheer their sons on the national stage. The two Innisfail men could not be more thrilled about the way the town has supported their boys’ playing careers.
TWO INNISFAIL BOYS IN THE GRAND FINAL. HOW GOOD THIS? THEY’RE PUTTING INNISFAIL ON THE MAP RON SLATER
THEY were once bitter rivals but Ron Slater and Peter Bolton have no hard feelings between them as they prepare to cheer their sons on the NRL’s biggest stage.
Cowboys prop Scott Bolton and Storm fullback Billy Slater have split Innisfail rugby league fans down the middle but everyone agrees just how good it is for the Far North to see the two boys run on to ANZ Stadium tomorrow.
While the pair have crossed paths on countless occasions throughout the past decade, Ron and Peter have done so sparingly. When they met at Garradunga Hotel on Thursday afternoon, it was the first time they had held a conversation for 40 years.
Innisfail once had their own hard-fought four-team competition and it was typical 1970s rugby league. Nothing was off limits.
Ron played for Suburbs, Peter played for Brothers and on one fateful day they came to blows.
Bolton came off second best and spent the night in hospital.
But that’s history now. Bolton says there’s nothing in it.
“We’re all good. I just don’t get out much,” he said about the distance between them.
“It was a bit rugged in those days. There were no rules.”
Slater was cautious about the meeting, but in this historic moment for their boys, it’s time to let bygones be bygones.
“Two Innisfail boys in the grand final. How good this? They’re putting Innisfail on the map,” he said.
Last weekend Slater was barracking for the Cowboys, but Sunday will be an easy choice to back Billy as he sits at the Garradunga with his mates.
That’s not to say he isn’t buying into the hysteria in North Queensland.
“I was thinking we’d win pretty well but lately I’ve been thinking the Cowboys have been playing pretty well too,” Slater said.
“There’s nothing like momentum, but I’ve got nothing but confidence going into the grand final.”
He doesn’t go to Sydney anymore, although wife Judy will be there. Ron sees more on TV. But watching his champion son back on the park after fighting back from what could have prematurely ended his career is satisfying enough.
“To tell you the truth at one stage I was wondering whether he’d be back. But I knew he’d have a go,” Slater said.
“It’s good to see he’s there this year. He suffered a bit, but he’s right. He’s ready.”
But will he play again? That’s something we’ll have to wait for.
“I don’t know whether he’ll play again. Well I know, but I’m not going to tell anyone,” Slater said.
NO HARD FEELINGS: Ron Slater and Peter Bolton meet years after playing league against each other in Innisfail.
RON’S BOY: Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater.
PETER’S BOY: Cowboys prop Scott Bolton.