Australian fullback Billy Slater has conceded he has likely played his last game for the Kangaroos but has vowed to go round one more time for Queensland in next year’s State of Origin series.
On the same night Cooper Cronk called an end to his time in the green and gold, Slater admitted the World Cup triumph against England on Saturday night is expected to be his international swansong given his intention to retire from rugby league at the end of the 2018 season.
But the veteran fullback, who capped off a memorable year returning from injury, has no plans to give up the Maroons jersey just yet.
“I’ll be playing Origin next year, as long as I get picked,” Slater said after Australia’s 6-0 World Cup final victory against England at Suncorp Stadium.
“I’ll be available to play Origin next year. More than likely I will be retiring at the end of next year, but whether that includes the one-off Test or not … look I’m pretty content with what I’ve achieved in the green and gold and I’m happy to pass it on. But I haven’t 100 per cent made a decision yet.”
The victory also doubled as the final time the “big three” of Cronk, Slater and Cameron Smith would take the field together.
Cronk informed his teammates on the eve of the final, with Slater taking a moment before running out on to the field to reflect on the significance of the occasion.
“When everyone was shaking hands and high-fiving before the game, I just basically said to him ‘one last time ay’,” Slater said.
“He told Cameron, Will [Chambers] and myself just before he told the team. I was just like ‘wow, this is going to be the last time I play alongside Cooper’.
“I met him as a 17-year-old kid and played alongside each other in every team since. That’s pretty special. That’s 17 years ago now. It’s the last time I will play alongside Cooper Cronk. It was special a moment.”
While the retirements of Cronk and Johnathan Thurston in the same year will leave a huge hole in both the Queensland and Australian ranks, Slater has no concerns over the future of the respective representative sides.
“Naturally it’s going to be different, but before Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston there was Darren Lockyer and Alfie Langer,” Slater said.
“Eras keep rolling and the next evolution of Queensland Rugby League and Australian rugby league players will role through and they’ll get their chance just like Cooper and Johnathan did.”