Slater says Maroons' elder statesmen need to step up
Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater said Queensland's senior players need to step up in the sudden absence of all-time great Cameron Smith.
A day after his Storm, Maroons and Test teammate decided to end his representative career, Slater said a new era had arrived for the Holden State of Origin series.
When added to the 2017 rep retirements of Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, the Maroons will be without close to 100 Origin games of experience when the 2018 series starts at the MCG on June 6.
"To lose Cameron, Cooper and Johnathan at the same time, I suppose the leadership and leaders in the team will have to take more of a role there," Slater said.
"My role on the field won't change. I try and get the best out of myself anyway, whether that's in a communication capacity or involvement. I don't think my role will change on the field but off the field, I think just [giving] direction around training. I'm pretty vocal anyway."
The Storm fullback refused to get drawn into speculation about who should be Queensland's next hooker, captain or goal-kicker but said he'd be happy to share his views with Maroons coach Kevin Walters.
"I'm really not too sure which way the selectors and Kevvie are thinking," he said.
"To be honest, I don't know they're thinking position-wise either.
"If Kevvie asked me, I'll give my opinions, but I'm sure they're capable of picking the right team for Queensland. They've done it for so many years. Queensland's a team about giving someone an opportunity.
"We've seen it in the past when someone's been given an opportunity - we got our opportunity once through retiring or people missing out.
"I'm sure whoever wears the No.9 jersey for Queensland will do a great job."
Slater was surprised at Smith's decision to walk away from rep footy but suggested his time away from the Origin and Test arena would freshen his approach.
"I was really excited, and keen to get back into the [Origin] team last year. And I'm still looking forward to the series this year.
"It's hard to draw parallels between Cameron and myself, but that could be a reason my decision is to continue playing [at a representative level]."
The fullback will captain the Storm for the first time in his 15-year NRL career when they run out against the Sea Eagles on Saturday.
Slater hasn't aspired to be a captain previously, but he's honoured to do the job.
"We've been fortunate that Cam's been ultra-durable and he doesn't miss too many games," he said.
"And we've had Cooper Cronk as well [who also captained the team in Smith's absence]. It's not something I'm concerned about or something I wanted to achieve.
"I play my leadership role within the team anyway, and I'm pretty comfortable with that. I don't need the 'c' next to my name to have a role as a leader in this team."