Slater leading era of great fullbacks
When Billy Slater was asked on Saturday night to contemplate 104 years of premiership fullbacks who were unable to score as many tries as he has, the Melbourne star looked a little wistful and then said: "We're in an environment where there's a lot of great current fullbacks."
Little did Slater know, on the very weekend he became the most prolific tryscoring no.1 in history (130 touchdowns), the competition got tougher.
Actually, he may have been aware that Brett Morris had joined the fullback's union the evening before, had he sat up to watch the late game on Queensland TV. Thrust into the custodial role, Morris had run 195m, made five tackle breaks, two try assists and six offloads in the 36-12 win over Wests Tigers at WIN Jubilee Stadium.
But Morris wasn't about to send Billy his membership fees just yet.
"I'm just doing what's best for the team," the regular Dragons winger said. "If Pricey (coach Steve Price) thinks it's best to play fullback, I'm happy to do it.
"But other than that, who knows where it will go?"
Slater would have been an intrigued spectator on Sunday as another former Melbourne cohort, Michael Maguire, did what the likes of Warren Ryan have been exhorting Greg Inglis to do for years and switched him to a certain position that sits behind the other 12 players on a given team.
The results were stunning; Inglis scoring one devastating try that "left carnage behind him" in the words of the commentators, in a man of the match performance as South Sydney beat Penrith 40-24 at Centrebet Stadium.
Maguire suggested the move to Inglis over the phone when the Bunnies' boss was still in charge of Wigan.
Yesterday at Mt Smart Stadium, Kevin Locke and Ben Barba each turned on a supershow from no.1, Barba scoring a try, stopping one and setting up two. Locke took a tumble over an advertising hoarding and later thought he had scored the clincher, only for it to be denied by the video ref.
At one stage late in the game, won 32-18 by Canterbury over the Warriors, Locke ran Barba down, after Barba had raced 75 metres from his own in-goal, only for the Bulldogs to score on the next tackle.
"I knew there wasn't much time left, I didn't want to do anything stupid," Barba said of the greyhound-chasing-hare scene.
"Luckily enough, we've got some pretty handy halves in our team and they found Jono Wright and he scored on the next play. It ended up working out well. I'm just happy while we keep winning."
At 7.30 on Friday night, Slater already had plenty of competition. "I loved watching Matty Bowen last week score that last try," Slater said. "He's getting back to some of his great attacking ability."
Now he has even more.
"The better other players go, the more you want to try and push your limits as well," he said. "I'm still trying to get more consistent in games. I feel I've let a few errors slip into my game in the first three (rounds)."
Slater now has incentive to get even better? Oh gawd.