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.”

Photo: An­thony Au-Ye­ung/Getty Images

HE’LL BE MISSED: Billy Slater, be­ing em­bracedby team­mate Josh Addo-Carr, has played his last home and awaygame for the Storm.

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