William Botoulas, Melbourne Correspondent, NRL.com
Billy Slater is rested, recuperated and ready for a big finish to the season.
It's the kind of talk from the champion fullback that will make players at opposing NRL clubs shuffle uncomfortably in their chairs.
A shoulder injury in Origin I saw Slater miss the next three games for Melbourne before he announced his return to the side last week in a manner few could muster.
The superstar No.1 raced to 151 metres, two tries and two assists in a match-winning performance that tore apart the Eels, propelled his side back into the top eight and left the purple faithful grateful and relieved 'The Kid' was back.
But by his admission, that nickname could be a little outdated. The 30-year-old’s body has taken its fair share of punishment this season and he reveals it's clever management that has been vital to him getting out on the park.
“The body is feeling okay, I have had a few days off this week,” said Slater. “The club always plan ahead and give us a couple of days off after we back up after Origin.
“It does get a little bit harder with age. I think just generally backing up, recovering from a game get’s a little bit harder as you get older.”
The injury troubles go back to the summer where knee surgery in the summer resulted in a relatively slow start to the season by Slater’s lofty standards.
However as the fitness has started to build the performances have returned to the type fans have become accustomed to seeing from the Maroons and Kangaroos representative.
In Slater’s last three games in Storm colours – including the two prior to Origin I – he has averaged 186 metres.
If you needed further proof that he was returning back to his best, Slater has scored six tries in those three games – he managed just one in his previous eight this season.
Given his hampered preparations leading into 2014, the Storm No.1 expected to struggle early on.
“Certainly the fitness isn’t there right away, so you need that time to get back and the games under your belt,” said Slater.
“Just due to the knee, rehabilitation and everything like that coming together it is certainly isn’t ideal to have that setback but I am feeling pretty good at the moment.”
Just how damaging Slater can be in the back half of the season may well decide the tale of the Melbourne season but recent showings suggest the best is yet to come.
Melbourne travel to WIN Stadium in Wollongong to take on St George Illawarra at 7pm on Monday night.