Billy’s home and away for family reasons
MELBOURNE Storm has been rocked by the shock withdrawal of Billy Slater from tonight’s minor premiership showdown against the Penrith Panthers.
Slater stayed in Queensland after last week’s win over Gold Coast, tending to a family member battling a serious illness.
Yesterday, Storm coach Craig Bellamy confirmed Slater’s indefinite absence.
“Unfortunately, there’s been an illness in his family up in north Queensland,” the premiership coach said. “Family is more important than footy, so at this stage I hope everyone respects the family is going through a rough time at the moment and we want to support them in any way we can. He certainly won’t be coming back tomorrow night.”
Bellamy was unable to guarantee if Slater would be available in the first week of finals.
“Bill, Nicole and the family are up there and that’s where they need to be,” he said.
The Storm has rallied behind Slater, with players, coaches and staff offering up any support needed.
But Bellamy cautioned the team had to shift focus to the Panthers, in the short term.
“Everyone is concerned, obviously,” he said. “But we’ve got to go on, and understand Bill and family are going through a very tough time. All the players have texted him and whatever – it’s not an easy situation for anyone but at the end of the day we’re here and we’ve got a job to do tomorrow so hopefully we can do that.”
Jahrome Hughes looks set to replace the champion fullback in the run-on squad, having brushed off a knee complaint.
“We’ve got a couple other bumps and bruises so we’ll work that (line-up) out today,” Bellamy said. “He’s (Hughes) done a great job when he has filled in for Billy. I’d imagine he’d be playing in that position.”
HE’LL BE MISSED: Billy Slater, being embracedby teammate Josh Addo-Carr, has played his last home and awaygame for the Storm.