Slater best ever at NRL grind: Bellamy
Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater handles the weekly rigour of the NRL better than anyone else, according to Craig Bellamy.
As the fullback gets set to play his 300th NRL game this Saturday against the Wests Tigers, his coach has credited his legendary work ethic for getting him to the magical milestone.
"I don't think I've ever seen a player handle the grind better than Billy," Bellamy said.
"Away from the game and match day, it can be a grind. Especially the amount of work he puts in. He's added to that over the last couple of years - it's been forced on him with his shoulder injury - and the amount of work he does on his shoulder.
"To me, and the players he's played and been involved with, I look at him as a real hard worker."
After an injury-ravaged period over the last three years, where he missed most of 2015 and all of 2016, Slater never thought about getting to 300 games.
Match: Storm vs Wests Tigers
Venue: AAMI Park
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"I think it's taken me three and a half years to play 30 games in the NRL," he said.
"I notched up the first 270 pretty quick. That makes it that more special I suppose.
"To be honest, I never thought about the number (reaching 300). When I first did the injury in 2015, I didn't have my sights set on 300 games. It was all about getting my shoulder right. After re-injuring it after one game, it was a long way away. It was about getting back to playing the game I love."
Add in 30 Tests and 29 Origins, and Slater will play his 360th professional game on Saturday.
It takes a mixture of factors to play so many games.
"It's hard to play 300 - it's harder to play one," he said.
"We've got 170,000 participants in our game every year, and there's only 500-odd who have the privilege to play at the highest level.
"It's not an easy game to crack. To go on to play 300 you need durability, resilience, persistence, and to be a little bit stubborn.
"I genuinely love playing rugby league and have done since I was four years old. I still enjoy competing to this day."
As for his shoulder injury, he's declared himself a certain starter but is going to manage his workload throughout the year.
"Leading into the Bulldogs game (in round one), I wanted to make the decision early.
"I was pretty close to (playing in) round one, I just wanted to get through training today and confirm that."
Slater hasn't thought about retirement just yet but confirmed he would make a decision before season's end.
"I've always said this will be my last year, but you don't want to make a statement before you play a game," he said.
"I didn't know what last year had in store. I felt like I can contribute to the Melbourne Storm, that's why I'm still here this year.
"I think that decision will be made during the season."