Storm star Slater cleared to play 300th NRL game
Melbourne Storm star Billy Slater has been cleared to play his 300th NRL game after overcoming a shoulder injury.
The illustrious milestone was put on hold last week after a shoulder injury sustained in Melbourne's World Club Challenge win over Leeds Rhinos forced him to miss Saturday's season-opening 36-18 victory against the Canterbury Bulldogs.
But the 34-year-old full-back will become the 31st player in history to play 300 games and just the 13th for one club when reigning champions the Storm welcome Wests Tigers to AAMI Park on Saturday.
"I think it's taken me three and a half years to play 30 games in the NRL," Slater told reporters on Tuesday. "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."
"It's hard to play 300 - it's harder to play one," he continued. "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."
Having also starred for Queensland Maroons in the State of Origin and Australia, Saturday will be Slater's 360th career appearance.
Asked about retirement, Slater said: "I've always said this will be my last year, but you don't want to make a statement before you play a game.
"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."
Storm head coach Craig Bellamy added: "Few players have been able to accomplish what Billy has in the game and that quite simply is down to how hard he works. His attitude towards and ability to embrace hard work sums him up as a player and as a person.
"From the first week he came to Melbourne to trial for a contract he has always been hungry to improve himself and help this team to be as successful as it can possibly be.
"It has been a privilege to coach him for all these years. Both our club and the competition have been lucky to see perform with such class and commitment week in and week out."