Hodges certain Slater will return
Former Maroons teammate Justin Hodges says if anyone can come back from a second serious shoulder operation in two years it is Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater.
Facing an eight-month recovery on the same left shoulder that required season-ending surgery last season, Slater's future in the game has been brought into question by respected figures such as Fox Sports commentator Ben Ikin.
Ikin suggested that even if Slater does make it back onto the field next season he will do so at a diminished capacity but Hodges is confident this latest setback won't be the end of Slater's glittering career of 172 tries in 278 NRL games.
Hodges and Slater played 15 Origin matches for Queensland together from Game One, 2004 until Game Two, 2015 and the former Broncos skipper is adamant that Slater deserves a more fitting farewell.
"I know it's hard as a footy player but if anyone can do it it's Bill," Hodges told NRL.com.
"I know how hard he works and I'm pretty sure he'll get his shoulder right and hopefully he can play out the rest of his career.
"You don't want to see a guy of his stature leave the game through an injury."
Having retired from the game after Brisbane's grand final defeat last year, Hodges himself had minor clean-up surgery on both knees in the past week to remove some of the pain that comes with 251 first grade games, 24 Origins and 13 Tests.
Twice during his career he had to come back from serious Achilles tendon injuries and says the mental torture for Slater will be undergoing the exact same recovery process that he went through for the second half of last year.
"I know what he's going through, it's tough, but I know how mentally strong he is and I know how hard he would have worked to get back this season," Hodges said. "He's just got to be prepared to do the same thing again.
"It's sad to see Billy go through that. He's had so many shoulder problems the poor bloke.
"He missed a big chunk of the season last year, he did the right thing by pulling out of Origin and getting his surgery done and getting ready for this year and to go down after one game again for another season..."