Munster tips Slater coaching future
Storm five-eighth and Kangaroos debutant Cameron Munster says he saw enough from Billy Slater during the champion fullback's two-season injury hiatus to be convinced Slater could move into full-time coaching virtually as soon as he finishes up playing.
Slater played just eight Telstra Premiership games in two seasons as back-to-back shoulder reconstructions threatened to bring an early close to his decorated career.
It is well-documented now that Slater spent countless days in 2015 and 2016 in the gym, on the physio table and on the training field tirelessly doing everything in his power to give himself every chance of making it back to the NRL – a goal he achieved in stunning fashion this year, culminating with a Clive Churchill Medal in a premiership win and Origin and Kangaroos recalls.
In between he spent plenty of time mentoring up-and-comer Munster, who spent the first two years of his NRL career effectively as an injury substitute for Slater and who is now a premiership-winning five-eighth and soon-to-be Kangaroo.
Speaking at a Kangaroos media event this week, Munster was effusive in his praise for Slater and the influence he has had, labelling him a coach of the future.
"He went through a lot of adversity in those two years pretty much doing the same thing all the time for two years straight, the rehab," Munster recalled.
"Every day I saw him down in the physio room icing his shoulder and trying to put strength in it each and every day and the way he went about it off field was outstanding.
"He could have kicked stones but instead he decided to help me out and it was one of the reasons we made the grand final last year, was the work he did with us in our attack. He's probably going to be an even better coach as well if he decides to give that a go.
"He's pretty smart, got a lot of knowledge about the game and I feel like he could be a really good coach after his career."
Asked what sort of traits Slater had shown that earmarked him as a full-time mentor of the future, Munster continued: "Just the way he goes about his defence, always watching video and watching other people's weaknesses and strengths and trying to finds kinks in other teams, the way they defend and stuff like that.
"He's really changed the game from a fullback's perspective. I wouldn't have learned as much as I have in the past three or four years if it wasn't for him and Cooper Cronk. I'm really grateful for that and hopefully I can pass that knowledge on a little bit more to a couple of the younger boys in the next couple of years.
"I could actually see him as a coach one day. He's always throwing himself into his work, always wants perfection and always wants to be competitive. I reckon it would be hard for him to leave the game he loves. I reckon he could be a coach in the next couple of years."
That development certainly won't happen next year, with Slater recently announcing he had signed on for another season at the Storm – a development Munster, like the rest of the Melbourne squad, is ecstatic about.
"We all found out at the [end-of-season club] awards," Munster said.
"He came up and pretty much said he was playing another year which was great for the club and great for him. He's had a roller-coaster last two or three years and for him to come out on top and win the Clive Churchill in the Grand Final as well, it's a testament to himself.
"I'm really excited for what we can do next year."