The Morning Bulletin - - NRL - – Gilbert Gardiner

Storm cham­pion Billy Slater has shelved re­tire­ment thoughts to fo­cus on do­ing his bit to keep the club’s pre­mier­ship dream alive. The reign­ing premier Storm will host the Cronulla Sharks on Fri­day night at AAMI Park in search of a third con­sec­u­tive grand fi­nal ap­pear­ance. But Slater, who an­nounced his re­tire­ment last month, hasn’t dwelt on the fact his foot­ball mor­tal­ity could be only 80 min­utes away af­ter 16 highly dec­o­rated sea­sons. “It’s re­ally weird,” Slater said ahead of Fri­day night’s pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal. “It’s snuck up on me. I haven’t re­ally thought about it. “My full fo­cus and en­ergy is go­ing into play­ing well. That’s all I want to do. “I un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion that I’m in, but it doesn’t feel like that sit­u­a­tion. “It doesn’t feel like I’m ap­proach­ing my last ever game ... hope­fully, it’s not.” Slater helped the Storm move into a 10th pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal in 13 years with an­other vin­tage per­for­mance last Fri­day week in the club’s come-from-be­hind one-point win over South Syd­ney. He set up the first of two Su­liasi Vu­ni­valu tries with a dummy and dou­ble-handed over­head pass to re­lease the Fi­jian ex­cite­ment ma­chine in space deep in red zone. The two-time pre­mier­ship full­back toasted the cru­cial win with team­mates and fam­ily. “To win the way we did (against Souths), fight­ing back, it just meant a lot,” Slater said. “That’s what you play for, those feel­ings af­ter the game in the dress­ing sheds with your mates singing the song and sit­ting down talk­ing about in­ci­den­tal things that hap­pen. “I feel very grate­ful to be able to share these mo­ments with my fam­ily.”

Photo: Alex Cop­pel

END IS NIGH: Billy Slater in front of a mu­ral of him­self at Richmond train sta­tion.

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