Slater the model Queensland player: Walters
Billy Slater turns 30 in 'Origin years' on Sunday to become the 10th player to reach that total for the Queensland Maroons.
Slater would have sailed past the 30-game mark much earlier if it hadn't been for a torn posterior cruciate ligament in 2012, or reconstructed shoulders in 2015 (game three) and 2016 (all three games).
But when he's in the team, the Queenslanders usually win – 18 victories from his 29 appearances.
So in joining the Maroons' 'Statesman's Club', by reaching 30 at ANZ Stadium for game two of the 2018 Holden State of Origin series, Slater has done something special.
However, coach Kevin Walters was reluctant to rank the Melbourne Storm two-time premiership winner compared with other Queensland No.1 greats like Gary Belcher, Darren Lockyer, Dale Shearer and Robbie O'Davis.
"I'm not going to be disrespectful to those other guys because they've been great Queenslanders," Walters said at the Maroons captain's run on Saturday.
"But when you look at Billy Slater he's your typical Queenslander.
"If you could model a Queensland rugby league State of Origin player around someone, he'd be one guy with all the traits that he has like toughness, endurance, that you'd need to be a great Origin player."
Alongside Lockyer, Slater is the only fullback to get to 30 games – although the former Brisbane Broncos captain played 16 of his 36 Origins at No.1 and the other 20 at No.6.
"It's a great milestone for Billy and it's been certainly recognised amongst our group – the Statesman award," Walters said.
"Bill has been one of the great Origin players of all time.
"For him to be playing his 30th game, it's a great milestone, and we want to get the result that Billy – not deserves – but that Billy wants."
But a nagging hamstring has kept Slater out of the Storm backline for the last four rounds. He also missed Origin I at the MCG on June 6.
Walters has no qualms about Slater's fitness or finesse since he's not played since May 19.
"We're very confident. Bill is a very experienced player and has been doing all the training," he said.
"Given Billy Slater and how he prepares himself, we're expecting him to be getting a bit of a workout from NSW.
"But being Billy it's not the first time in Origin they will try to sort him out. He'll be right."
Don't miss Game II of Origin at ANZ Stadium on Sunday June 24. Get your tickets here