Slater fit and firing after long off-season
As he enters his 12th NRL season, Storm fullback Billy Slater says the motivation for success is as strong as ever.
A humbling 24-point elimination final defeat to the Bulldogs saw the Storm's 2014 campaign end with an uncharacteristic thud.
More than five months on, the memories of that Sunday afternoon at AAMI Park still linger but its impact has all but evaporated.
"It was disappointing the way we finished the year but whether we come off a successful year or a disappointing year the motivation is always there," Slater said.
"It was disappointing but I probably won't draw on it a lot I, I'm quite a driven person anyway."
Last season was one Slater would reflect on with mixed emotions.
The 31-year-old became just the third player in club history to reach the 250-game milestone and also eclipsed Manly legend Steve Menzies to move into third on the competition's all-time try scoring list.
However a sprained AC joint suffered during Origin I sidelined the Maroons fullback for three weeks and heralded the start of a mid-season injury crisis at Melbourne.
Slater became all too familiar with the medical room in the off-season, enduring surgery to repair his shoulder, an arthroscopic treatment on his left elbow and laser eye treatment to restore his 20/20 vision.
While that repair work ruled the Kangaroos No.1 out of the year-ending Four Nations tournament, it did allow him to report for training in November for the first time since 2007.
Slater scored a try in Melbourne's final trail match against the Canterbury Bulldogs last Saturday, playing significant game time in the come-from-behind 32-30 win.
With the Round 1 clash against St George Illawarra on March 9 fast approaching the playmaker was pleased with the final hit-out.
"I ended up playing three quarters of the game so it was good to get out there and get into battle again, take a few knocks and make a few tackles. Hopefully that will benefit me going into Round 1," Slater said.
"It's been the longest pre-season I've had for a number of years but the only thing that matters is what I do from now on.
"The work that I've put in is certainly going to help me but my performances from Round 1 onwards is going to determine how good the last four months have been."
Video courtesy MelbourneStorm.com.au