Coura­geous Slater con­quers his fears

Sunday News - - LEAGUE - ROY WARD

AS he sprinted to the try line against Bris­bane Bron­cos on Fri­day night, Billy Slater soaked up the mo­ment.

His 60th-minute try gave the Mel­bourne Storm a 14-0 lead and was ef­fec­tively the match­win­ning score to se­cure a place in next Sun­day’s grand fi­nal.

Con­sid­er­ing Slater missed most of the last two years due to shoul­der surg­eries, in­clud­ing the 2016 grand fi­nal, that mo­ment was a glow­ing one for the 34-year-old full­back in his club’s 30-0 pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal win.

When Slater casts his mind back to grand fi­nal week last year, he doesn’t get such a good feel­ing.

At that time he was still re­gain­ing his strength in his shoul­der and his team was pre­par­ing to take on Cronulla in a match he would be tak­ing no part in.

But there were still club du­ties and Slater didn’t want to be in­volved in any of them, with the team photo an espe­cially har­row­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘I re­mem­ber one of the most awk­ward pho­tos I have ever had was the grand fi­nal photo,’’ Slater re­called.

‘‘I think it was on the Tues­day and I hon­estly didn’t want to go but I was part of the team and I had to suck it up and get the photo.

‘‘It was very awk­ward get­ting into that room and get­ting the photo done but that’s the way it goes and we have peo­ple in our or­gan­i­sa­tion go­ing through that ex­act same thing like Cheyse Blair, Chris­tian Welch and a few others.

‘‘I found the first few days of the week re­ally tough and I didn’t know how to ap­proach it.

‘‘There was one mo­ment where I was driv­ing in the car with my wife and I just thought ‘stop be­ing self­ish and think­ing about my­self’.

‘‘I had an op­por­tu­nity to help the team and from that mo­ment I wanted to do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to help them pre­pare and I did that from then on.’’

Help­ing the Storm re­turn to the grand fi­nal and be­ing able to play is an enor­mous achieve­ment for Slater, who ad­mits he feared his shoul­ders would never let him re­gain his best form.

‘‘I hon­estly didn’t know if I would get back, didn’t know if my shoul­der would let me but I was cer­tainly will­ing to give it a crack,’’ Slater said.

‘‘And now we are here it is all worth it.’’

Storm coach Craig Bel­lamy praised his star full­back for his courage in re­turn­ing to the field and main­tain­ing his speed and pro­duc­tion.

Slater has yet to com­mit to play­ing next sea­son al­though hopes are build­ing that he will play on.

‘‘I don’t think you have to be a Storm or Queens­land or Aus­tralian sup­porter to en­joy what he GETTY IMAGES brings to a footy field,’’ Bel­lamy said.

‘‘Some of those tries he has scored have been un­be­liev­able. As he has got older he gets wiser and finds bet­ter po­si­tions to score tries whereas as a kid he re­lied on that blind­ing pace he has got.

‘‘It’s just a great story how he has come back and how he will play in a grand fi­nal with what he has been through. I don’t know how he kept work­ing as hard as he did to get back, there was no cer­tainty he would be back.’’

‘ I hon­estly didn’t know if I would get back . . . ’ BILLY SLATER

Billy Slater re­acts af­ter scor­ing a de­ci­sive try for the Mel­bourne Storm against Bris­bane in the pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal on Fri­day night.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.