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Jarryd Hayne may be the man of the moment but Kangaroos incumbent Billy Slater says he has no plans to relinquish his Test jersey to the Eels ace just yet.<br><br>Slater admitted this morning that his position in the Australian squad was certain to come under fire when the squad for the upcoming Four Nations is announced next month, with Hayne – who capped off a stunning second half of the season by winning the Dally M medal last night – the obvious challenger.<br><br>But the Melbourne fullback insisted he was coming into form at the right time of the year and was ready to fire the Storm into their third grand final in a row.<br><br>“I’ve been a bit up and down this year but I’m pretty happy with how I’ve played the past few weeks,” said Slater, having starred in his side’s 30-0 thrashing of the Warriors last weekend.<br><br>“There are still some areas that I need to work on but I’m confident I can step it up again now that the finals are here.<br><br>“That’s what I need to do.”<br><br>Asked about Hayne’s performances over the past two months, Slater said: “He has been playing outstanding hasn’t he?<br><br>“He is a pleasure to watch and there is no doubt he has been the best player in the competition for a few months now.<br><br>“But there are a lot of good fullbacks around and there always has been so it’s nothing new to me.<br><br>“There are a lot of talented players.”<br><br>Slater has made the Australian fullback spot his own since debuting last year and has long been considered the game’s premier custodian.<br><br>But Hayne’s stunning form this season, including a superb State of Origin series for NSW, is sure to put pressure on selectors to at least include him somewhere in the Kangaroos squad.<br><br>“We’ll see what happens – there is a lot of water to pass under the bridge until then,” Slater said.<br><br>“It (his Kangaroos spot) isn’t something I’ll ever take for granted.<br><br>“Playing fullback in any side these days is quite an achievement and certainly in the Australian team you have to consistently play well to keep it.<br><br>“But my focus at the moment is playing well for Melbourne in the finals.”<br><br>The Storm’s latest finals campaign kicks off this Friday night with a grand final rematch against arch-rivals Manly.<br><br>Although neither side has quite reached the heights of last season when they dominated the competition, both have run into some form at the right end of the season with Melbourne thrashing the Roosters and Warriors in their past two games and Manly ruthlessly disposing of the Gold Coast.<br><br>Slater said he expected the Storm to produce a far better performance than three weeks ago when Manly pipped them 20-16 at Olympic Park but insisted revenge for last year’s grand final thrashing wasn’t a factor.<br><br>“There is always hurt when you lose a big game like we did last year but how long does it go on?” he said.<br><br>“Are Manly still worried about losing to us the year before?<br><br>“We’ve lost too many players since then and it’s a very different side so I don’t think that plays on anyone’s mind anymore.<br><br>“But we do have a great rivalry with Manly.<br><br>“I think both sides have kicked on from the last time we played so it will be a good start to the finals.”<br><br>Melbourne’s fourth-placed finish this year is the first time since 2005 that they haven’t finished the regular season in the top two, with Slater admitting the pressure had eased on the 2007 premiers.<br><br>“Although I think everyone has a bit of heat off them at the moment – even the Dragons and Bulldogs,” he said.<br><br>“We’ve had to deal with the brunt of it the past few years and Manly too but it’s so close this year that I don’t think anyone can be considered favourites.<br><br>“For the first time it really is a case of anyone being able to beat anyone else.<br><br>“It’s all pretty even.”
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