After becoming the 31st player in the NRL to reach 300 appearances recently, we take a closer look at the career to date of one Australia’s greatest, Billy Slater…
A man who has spent his entire career to date at Melbourne would achieve another spectacular feat to add to his already glittering résumé against the West Tigers recently, as Billy Slater would be given the ultimate guard of honour by both his teammates and opponents by being hoisted a loft in a great show of respect for the veteran fullback.
Born in Nambour, Queensland Slater’s journey to becoming one of the NRL’s greatest ever fullbacks began back as youngster, playing for the Innisfail High School representative side. He would consistently make the side all the way up until his final year at the age of sixteen.
It would not be before long until the Melbourne Storm would come calling and at still a tender of 20 years old would make is official NRL debut in 2003 in a match against the Cronulla Sharks in what would be one to remember for the young prospect. After starting the game on the wing, Slater would bag himself a debut try to go along with an incredible 22-point turnaround that would see the Storm come back to win 36-32.
A nothing but stellar rookie season would see Slater become Melborune’s top try scorer for the season bagging himself 19 tries in 26 appearances for the Queensland side. Also, his receivership of the Dally M Rookie of the Year would make sure it would be a debut season to remember for the future star.
The next three seasons would see Slater battle injuries and suspensions but would still produce why he was regarded as one of Australia’s top young talent. In 2004, Slater would make his official State of Origin debut and would score a brace in his only second appearance for Queensland, with his second considered one of the great origin tries after he would collect the ball from a Darren Lockyer before producing his own moment of magic with a chip over the top of the covering defender before going to cross the try line. Despite spending only four seasons with the Storm, Slater was inducted into Melbourne’s team of the decade in 2007, a testament to his incredible impact at the club.
The 2008 season would see Slater produce his best performances to date and see him cement himself amongst the elite players in the world. A spectacular start to the season would see the dynamic Australian score six tries in four appearances, gathering praise from the likes of Andrew Johns and Laurie Daley (not exactly the worse players to be getting compliments from). A tremendous start would see him rewarded with his first international cap for Australia and although it would be a quiet start to his Kangaroos career, there would still be more to come from Slater at international level later that year.
Slater would eventually announce himself on the world stage in sensational style after being selected for the 2008 Australian World Cup squad. In a nothing but breath-taking tournament from the star fullback, he would become the first man to score seven tries in the competition (with six tries coming in two games) and despite losing out to New Zealand in the final he would be named player of the tournament in the process. Although, Melbourne would also lose out to Manly in the NRL grand final that year the Australian star would be crowned the Storm’s player of the year after scoring 14 tries in 24 matches for the side.
To put the cherry on top of an incredible year and only five years since making his professional debut Slater would be crowned the best rugby league player in the world after winning the Golden Boot for 2008 thanks to his outstanding performances at both club, representative and international level.
The electric performances would not stop there though as over the next six seasons, Slater would constantly find himself over the try line, collecting many awards along the way. By 2011, he had broken the record for most tries by a Melbourne Storm player with 114 tries beating Matt Geyer’s previous record. Between the years of 2009 and 2014, Slater would cross the try line a total of 86 times.
By 2015, he would be hampered by serious shoulder concerns, an injury that would see him on the side lines for well over a year, playing only eight games over the course of two seasons and one that looked to spell the end of an illustrious career.
However, the 2017 season would see an incredible resurgence from the Queensland man. Round 9 of the season would see Slater break a long try-scoring drought, notching a brace and man of the match performance in the win against the St. George Illawarra Dragons. His first double since 2015. The season would also see his return to the Queensland side becoming an integral part of the sides’ series decider win over New South Wales. Another NRL grand final would also beckon for Slater as he would go to win the Clive Churchill Medal thanks to his performance in the 34-6 win against the NQ Cowboys.
An incredible career to date has seen the 34-year-old become one of the most accomplished players in rugby league, now standing second in the NRL top try scorers list only behind Ken Irvine. It remains to be seen how the rest of Slater’s career will pan out after such a problematic shoulder injury, however, what can easily be said is that one of Australia’s star men over the last few years completed one of the most remarkable of comebacks when many thought it was over.
Despite two of his NRL Grand Final victories being stripped due to salary cap breaches, Slater’s accomplishments still know no bounds. If you even put this together with the impact he has made in the sport it just shows that he may not only be one of Australia’s greatest but also possibly sport of rugby league itself.
Billy Slater’s honours and achievements:
Dally M Top Try Scorer (19) (2005)
Melbourne Storm Team of the Decade (Fullback) (2007)
Dally M Fullback of the Year x3 (2008, 2011, 2017)
Rugby League World Cup Player of the Tournament (2008)
Rugby League World Cup Top Try Scorer (7) (2008)
Rugby League World Golden Boot Award (2008)
Clive Churchill Medal x2 (2009, 2017)
Melbourne Storm Player of the Year Award (2009)
Wally Lewis Medal (State of Origin) (2010)
Dally M Medal Player of the Year (2011)
NRL Grand Final Winners x2 (2012, 2017) *2007 and 2009 titles stripped
State of Origin series Winners x8 (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017)
Rugby League Four Nations Winners x2 (2009, 2011)
World Club Challenge Winners x3 (2010, 2013, 2018)
Rugby League World Cup Winners (2013, 2017)
Now that list certainly speaks for itself…