Billy Slater during State of Origin II.

Slater not guaranteed Origin return: Bennett

Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett believes the talk of Billy Slater playing State of Origin football later this year is unrealistic.

‌Bennett's comments have merit, with Slater having only managed to play eight games in the past two seasons due to injury. 

He will make his long-awaited return to the NRL on Thursday night against the Broncos, with the Melbourne Storm fullback finally making it back from a serious shoulder injury after over a year out of the game. 

The 33-year-old hasn’t played since Round 1 of the 2016 season so it will be a big milestone when he runs out onto AAMI Park in front of an adoring crowd. 

Slater will be taking one step at a time, with the Innisfail junior eventually wanting to reclaim his role as fullback of the Queensland Maroons. 

Slater had made the Maroons No.1 jersey is own before his injury-riddled 24 months, and he will need to earn it back after superb performances from Darius Boyd at fullback for both Queensland and the Australian Kangaroos in Slater's absence. 

Bennett told media on Wednesday that he believes any talk of Slater taking the jersey back from Boyd is improbable at this stage of his comeback from injury. 

"It's not realistic to be talking about Billy in a representative sense. A lot of people are writing about him playing for Queensland just to fill up pages in the paper," Bennett said.  

"His return is about him playing some football and seeing where his game is at after a long recovery. 

"The chat about Billy playing Origin won't bother Darius at all. 

"He knows he'll be playing for Australia and Queensland. Whether that's on the wing or at fullback remains to be seen. 

"Darius played fullback last year so we all know he's good enough to be at the back at that level."

Slater's return to the NRL against his fullback rival Boyd is just one of many storylines set to take place during Thursday's blockbuster. 

Brisbane's Andrew McCullough will face-off against Queensland and Australian hooker Cameron Smith, with many tipping McCullough to one day take over from Smith when the 33-year-old retires. 

It would be a deserved honour for McCullough who re-signed with the Broncos until the end of 2021 earlier this week. 

One of the game's best hookers, Bennett said McCullough's signature is a huge positive for the club after it was feared he might test the open market. 

"I played against his father all those years ago. He was always born to be a Bronco and he's going to stay one," he said. 

"It's wonderful for him and the club. 

"No one gives more than he gives at this club. 

"He epitomises what it means to do your best every week. That's what he does and that's what he's always done."