Fresh Slater ready to fire for Maroons
What has been Melbourne's loss looks set to be the Queensland's gain with a rested and ready Billy Slater declaring himself ready to go for Origin II.
Slater has missed both games for Melbourne since Origin I, something his Queensland teammates have been quick to point out.
"There's a few jokes going around that I'm a professional representative player now," Slater said.
It has been a frustrating season for Billy the Kid ever since he suffered a shoulder injury in Round 5 against the Warriors.
The 31-year-old missed three games on the back of that and then a further two following the Maroons' Game One win as the Storm took a cautious approach with its battered superstar.
It has been Slater's most interrupted start to a season since he missed seven of the first 11 games of 2006.
However with a week until Origin II kicks off in his adopted state the Maroons and Kangaroos No.1 was confident he would be ready.
"It (the shoulder) is going alright, I'm pretty fresh actually," Slater said.
"Obviously I went up to Sydney last week to hopefully try and take my place in the Storm side but it just didn't come up, it will be right to go next Wednesday."
Slater's troublesome shoulders have seen him miss eight games in the last two seasons. When asked if it was an issue he would have to manage for the remainder of his career he said he could ill-afford to think that far ahead.
"To be honest I'm just focused on eight days' time and my preparation during these eight days – getting myself right to do my job for next Wednesday night," he said.
"To be honest what happens after that we will see but my focus is just next Wednesday night."
The withdrawal of Cooper Cronk (knee) for Origin II has been a blow to Queensland but has also thrown a curve ball for Slater, who has a near telepathic combination with his club, state and international teammate.
Daly Cherry-Evans was named in place of Cronk on Tuesday in the only change to the Maroons side that claimed a one-point victory three weeks ago.
Slater has already played alongside DCE for both Queensland and Australia, but admits not having his great mate out there next week will bring its challenges.
"It does, obviously Cooper and I have a great combination and we've played a lot of football alongside each other," Slater said.
"I've played some football alongside Daly as well, at state and national level. Obviously it is going to be critical what we do over the next eight days to prepare but I think we got that taste last year when Coops was out for pretty much two games and hopefully we can improve on what we did there.
"I think Daly is pretty keen to get amongst it, he missed out on the first game and obviously made a good recovery from his shoulder injury so I'm sure he'll be looking to get out there and press his claim to start in an Origin."
Queensland will look to clinch the series when they battle the Blues next Wednesday night in front of a possible 90,000-strong crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Video courtesy of qrl.com.au