Slater confident for Round 1
Billy Slater believes he's on track to feature in Melbourne's opening game of the NRL Telstra Premiership season against the Dragons on March 7.
Slater has been recovering from a shoulder injury that saw him miss the final 14 games of last season, and says it's only a matter on time before he get's back out on the park for the Storm.
"I've been doing a little bit of contact work, that'll progress over the next couple of weeks, and it's not far off full contact now," Slater said.
"I've felt a fair bit of improvement over the last 2-3 weeks, so I'm pretty confident that I'll be right for Round 1."
Slater stopped short of declaring himself a certain starter for the Storm's opening round clash, but it's looking better and better each day.
"Things are looking in good shape, I hope to be there in Round 1, nothing's definite just yet, but hopefully it'll be right to go by then," he said.
"It's been progressing and it's been a long process, but things are moving in the right direction."
The fullback didn't feature in any pre-season games for the Storm, and was particularly frustrated that he couldn’t appear in the Auckland Nines tournament, one that he had been looking forward to playing in.
"I'm obviously disappointed, I honestly wanted to play the Nines, and being over there watching for the first time was quite an exciting weekend to be a part of, even just sitting in the grandstand watching the teams play, I really enjoyed it."
"Hopefully I can be involved in it next year, I was a little bit disappointed that I couldn’t play," Slater said.
With Craig Bellamy and Cooper Cronk still yet to finalise contracts beyond this season, Slater would love for them to stay in Melbourne, but understands it's not as easy as it sounds.
"It'd be great if we could all stay here, but unfortunately not everyone can stay at the one club. Cooper's been here a long time, Craig's been here a long time, and I think they've earned the respect from us fellow players, and we respect the decision and respect the process and whatever decision they make will be in the best interests of them and their families."
Slater then reflected on the decision he had to make just last year regarding his contract at the Storm, and it was one that came with relative ease.
"I know how hard it was for me to go through that process, although I never considered going anywhere else. Even the thought of not being involved in this club was really hard to swallow and I’m sure that's going through their minds as well," he said.
"To be honest when I re-signed with the club last year I just felt honoured and privileged that I had that opportunity to stay at the club. I still talk to players that have left this club and they still wish they were involved in this organisation."
Even though Slater believes he'll be there for Monday night football in just under two weeks, he is confident in his teammates to step in and fill the void should the star fullback not be fit to play.
"We've got a couple of options, young Curtis Scott played fullback last week in the trials and he can play in the centres, he's come a long way, he's only just out of school last year and really impressed in the pre-season."
"Young Tonumaipea is another one who has played a bit of fullback before, and Ben Hampton debuted at fullback in his first NRL game, so we’ve got a few options there, but hopefully it won't come to that," Slater said.
Be it in Round 1 or not, Slater is confident that when he does return to the field, his shoulder injury won't trouble him in the future.
"I'm hoping that I've done the work over the last three to four months to have the strength in it, I've done everything possible to make sure that I'm right for this season," he said.