Billy Slater drops bombshell on Queensland, announces representative retirement
BILLY Slater has dropped another bombshell on the Queensland team, announcing this would be his last State of Origin series before hanging up his boots in the representative arena.
Slater spoke at a snap media conference in Maroons camp on Tuesday morning, revealing he would not be back in a Queensland jersey next year or beyond.
Now 34, Slater has been toying with retirement for 12 months and is still to commit to continuing with the Storm for 2019 and beyond.
With Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston having already retired from representative football, the Maroons era of champions looks to have finally come to an end.
If Slater plays all three games this Origin series he will finish on 32 games for Queensland over a 15-year period — a phenomenal achievement that will take him past the appearance records of Origin icons Brad Fittler and Wally Lewis (both played 31 games).
“I just feel it’s time,” Slater said.
“To be honest, I can’t give you a real answer on why exactly, but I’m 35 this year, this will be my 15th year for Queensland.
“I had a fair indication that the World Cup last year would be the last time I played for Australia, it’s been on my mind for a while, I always felt this would be my last Origin series.
“The guys that have gone last year (Thurston and Cronk) and Cam’s decision had no bearing for me.
“I just made the decision myself. The pressure is relieved letting everyone know and being honest.”
Maroons coach Kevin Walters admitted he was “a little bit shocked” by Slater’s decision but conceded “he can’t keep playing forever”.
“This time last year I was nearly in tears because we didn’t have him in the team and now he gets to go out on his terms,” Walters said.
“Billy Slater epitomises what Origin is all about, a kid who makes it from the bush and turns the game upside down.
“He has changed the way fullbacks play and to have him for 15 years is a dream for all Queenslanders.
“Everyone would remember Billy’s great Origin try and that makes kids want to be like Billy Slater.
“He has been phenomenal for Queensland.”
The Slater retirement announcement overshadowed Greg Inglis’ first scheduled media appearance as Queensland captain.
When he took the podium, questions about Slater’s impact on the Maroons set up dominated and Inglis, a champion in his own right, admitted the great fullback had been an idol for him.
“He’s been a great attribute to Queensland without a doubt since making his debut,” Inglis said.
“He’s been a role model to meself, he’s been a role model to a lot of Queensland people out there and he still will be a role model to the guys upstairs (the rest of the squad) too.
However, Inglis was determined that the Slater announcement wouldn’t deviate the Maroons from their preparation for next Wednesday’s series opener.
“It won’t change a hell of a lot. We always think team first, we know what’s best for the team and how we treat the week, we’ve got to prepare well individually and as a team,” Inglis said.
“So it won’t change our mindset on how we’ve got to prepare as a group and as a team. It’s still a fair while away from game one next week and we’ve got training this afternoon.”