The fear driving Slater's premiership push
Storm fullback Billy Slater says the fear of potentially being forced into retirement 12 months ago with a shoulder injury is a driving motivation heading into Sunday's NRL Telstra Premiership grand final against the Cowboys.
The decider against a side Slater admits he supported as a child will cap off a remarkable turnaround for the 34-year-old, who could only manage eight games in the past two seasons heading into the 2017 season.
Slater watched on as the Storm suffered a two-point defeat in the 2016 grand final last year, and that set the tone for the former Australian fullback to return to the game.
"I didn't set out a list of goals, I just wanted to get back playing footy for the Melbourne Storm - that was the main driving focus." Slater said.
"It hurt not playing last year and the year before. To sit back and watch my team play in big games certainly lit the fire to get back and want to be a part of it again.
"I didn't fear the premiership opportunity, I feared my body wouldn't let me play again. That was a concern for me, physically I didn't know where my body was at."
Slater said he has made a full recovery after managing 20 games throughout the season to date, and a successful return to the Origin arena.
Speculation however continues to mount on whether the Innisfail product will retire at season's end or play on another year for the Storm.
With fellow teammate Cooper Cronk set to play his final game for the Storm on Sunday, there was no suggestion when asked that Slater would follow suit.
"I've just really enjoyed what we're doing and the journey we are on at the moment," he said.
"I don't want any other distractions. The uncertainty of my playing future next year is not standing in the way of that.
"The decision is on myself physically whether I can play next year. It won't come into it whether we win, lose or draw."
Rugby League experts have said if Slater did hang up the boots, it would be premature given the form he's in – some saying career-best.
"I don't think it would be a waste, it's more whether I feel I can do it," Slater replied.
"That's why the decision hasn't been made to call it quits. I just need to make sure I'm 100 per cent sure I can contribute next year.
"I honestly haven't thought about it. It's about living in the now and appreciating that."
Melbourne head into Sunday's clash against the Cowboys as the shortest favourites in grand final history, a tone they've managed to overcome throughout the season.
"What gives us confidence is we've played consistent all year," Slater said.
"We need to rely on what we've done all year – especially defensively."