Storm fullback Billy Slater turns to Cooper Cronk during their side's loss to the Sharks.

Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater remains very much in contention to feature in the Kangaroos World Cup campaign at the end of the year despite being overlooked by Queensland selectors for the opening game of the Holden State of Origin Series on May 31.

Rather than unseating Darius Boyd from the position in which he excelled and was named Queensland's best player last year by selecting Slater at fullback, Maroons coach Kevin Walters elected not to include Slater at all.

After playing just four NRL games in two seasons due to shoulder surgeries there was a sense of trepidation regarding Slater's comeback to the NRL this season but the 33-year-old has returned with the same speed and footballing instincts that marked him as one of the greatest fullbacks to ever play the game.

 


Such has been his form that many assumed he would automatically come back into the Maroons fold but despite being overlooked he remains very much under consideration by Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga to add to his tally of 25 Tests for Australia at the end of the year.

Former Queensland coach Michael Hagan was at the helm when Slater made his Origin debut in 2004 and admits to being surprised that the 27-time Maroons representative couldn't force his way into the squad for Game One.

"I thought given how he's started the year and where he's at I thought they might have found a place for him somewhere. It's a little bit of a surprise I think," Hagan told NRL.com.

"Billy has obviously been at that level and would fit back into the structure without any trouble and still may figure in Game Two and Three given you do cop a couple of injuries in Origin. 

"Billy was involved last year in something of a coaching capacity with the team so I guess it was assumed that if he did get back – and he's done really well to get back and play so well for Melbourne at NRL level – that it was a logical step for him to come back into the Origin arena again.

"I'm disappointed for him and I'm sure some of the fans would be too but you can't disagree with Darius [Boyd]. He's been the Test fullback and fantastic in that role for the last 12-18 months.

"It's a good position for Kevvie to be in, that you've got that quality of player that you can't find a place for."

Queensland coach Kevin Walters was all but reduced to tears as he explained the difficulty in the decision to not select Slater on Monday afternoon and hasn't closed the door on going back to the Storm champion should it be warranted during the Series.

"I don't know if we've seen the last of Billy Slater in a Maroons jumper," Walters told QRL TV.

"It's only Game One and lots of things can happen over the series so if the opportunity came up for us to use Billy, we'd have no hesitation.

"It was a really tough decision I've got to say. It took us a long time to come to the decision that we have – months and months of speaking to each other and trying to get it right.

"We know what a great player Billy has been for Queensland and Darius as well with his work on the wing and back there last year at fullback was outstanding. He won the player of the series for the best Queensland player so it was a tough one.

"It was a tough conversation that we had but Billy's a Queenslander and a very humble Queenslander as well."

Having seen Slater's Origin career begin more than a decade ago, Hagan is also hopeful that we haven't seen the last of Slater in the representative arena, hinting he could be afforded a green-and-gold swansong alongside fellow members of the 'big three', Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.

"You'd always like to see a player at that level get to finish on his terms at that level," said Hagan, who coached Queensland in the 2004 and 2005 series and blooded Slater, Johnathan Thurston, Corey Parker and Ashley Harrison during his time in charge.

"He'd be disappointed that he's been ruled out with injury the past two years and he's been such an integral part of that successful decade.

"Things have a way of working themselves out and I wouldn't be surprised if Billy finds himself back in that arena before too long and I think all the fans would love to see that happen as well.

"He might have looked at the Test and Origin stuff as a real bonus if he could get back to that level quickly.

"If he does come into Origin for Game Two or Three or back into the World Cup equation he won't put a foot wrong there.

"He's that sort of player and that sort of character."