He's played 15 seasons of NRL Telstra Premiership football, but Billy Slater is enjoying the chance to play in a grand final in the twilight years of his career.
Slater scored two tries in the Storm's 30-0 preliminary final shutout of the Broncos at AAMI Park on Saturday night and was a relieved man afterwards.
"It's very special," he said.
"I suppose as you get a little bit older, you reflect on your career and your highs and lows a little bit more. When you're younger, you focus on what's next and try to improve, and I still do that.
"Obviously the last two years have been tough and this was enjoyable."
His tries in the 60th and 71st minutes gave Melbourne some breathing room on the score sheet against Brisbane.
"The first one (try) was more enjoyable because they were within arms reach of the game, and although we were defending really well, to get that try in the corner, I knew it put a buffer between us."
Slater also reflected on his long injury lay-off over the past two years, but the prospect of a grand final wasn't a focus.
"I love playing rugby league and running out for Melbourne Storm," he said.
"I love playing for Queensland and Australia as well. That enjoyment really drove me and I was willing to put in that hard work to get back.
"Usually people lose their speed and agility and that sort of stuff. I still have my legs and have improved in some areas of my game. I was training a couple of weeks after the grand final last year. When I did get my chance, I wanted to be ready.
"I never thought I was going to give up. I didn’t know what my body was thinking, but my mind certainly was never giving up."
Slater's shoulder kept him out of action for 18 months but he hasn't felt any issues with it.
"I feel pretty good," he said.
"Physically, I've got a few bumps and bruises here and there, but the main issue coming into the season was my shoulder is really good.
"I probably didn't think it would get as good as it is, and I'm really happy with that."