Billy Slater

If the gods are kind, Cronk and Slater play. But that’s the stuff of fairytales

Two preliminary finals turned out two significant storylines after Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters despatched Cronulla Sharks and South Sydney Rabbitohs. Both tales involve shoulders. And both could see champion players watching Sunday’s NRL grand final from sideline seats. 

Billy Slater goes out with a win

Queensland provided one final highlight for stand-in skipper Slater, downing NSW 18-12 in State of Origin III in Brisbane in a fitting farewell for the veteran fullback.

Polarising Maroons playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans was a standout after ending three years in the Origin wilderness.

After his 31st and final Origin, Slater said it was vital for the Maroons' future that he helped deny the Blues their first series whitewash in 18 years.

Slater out of Origin I

Brisbane's Anthony Milford and Newcastle's Kalyn Ponga will be flown into Melbourne as potential replacements.

Veteran fullback Slater's shock withdrawal after aggravating a hamstring injury is a major setback for a Maroons team already without a total of 151 Origin games worth of experience as they begin life without retired greats Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk.

Slater - a veteran of 29 Origins - had already confirmed he would retire from representative football after the 2018 series.

Bennett questions controversial Slater 'drop-kick' try ruling

Slater drop-kicked the ball for himself close to the line to set up the Storm's opening try in what the NRL has since deemed to be an initial correct ruling by the on-field referee Ashley Klein.

Klein sent the ruling to the Bunker which confirmed the try. Klein then explained to Brisbane captain Darius Boyd that Slater was entitled to drop-kick the ball and didn't have to necessarily kick for the posts.

NRL referees boss Bernie Sutton explained why the correct ruling was made (see video below).

Benji ensures Tigers teammates give Slater guard of honour

Marshall was preparing to give a post-game interview for Fox Sports following his team's surprise 10-8 win over the Storm at AAMI Park when he noticed the Melbourne players were getting ready to give Slater a guard of honour as he walked off the ground.

Yelling out to his teammates over the other side of the field, Marshall told them to rush over to acknowledge Slater in his milestone match.

Past and former players have taken to social media to praise Marshall for his selfless act, including Monty Betham, David Mead and Jake Marketo, plus countless fans.

Stat Attack: Billy Slater's glittering career by the numbers

As the veteran fullback prepares for the round two clash against the Wests Tigers at AAMI Park, here's a look at some of the key stats that show why he’s one of the game’s greatest of all time.

When it comes to tackle breaks in the NRL era, Slater is the undisputed king with a grand total of 1231 for his career, which puts him 108 clear of the next best, South Sydney Rabbitohs captain Greg Inglis.

Slater is also the all-time leader for line breaks with 259 for which puts him well clear of Brisbane Broncos five-eighth Darren Lockyer (203).

Bellamy praises all-conquering Smith and Slater

The champion duo claimed every available major medal and trophy over the last year, including the Golden Boot and Dally M and Clive Churchill medals. On a team level, they secured a State of Origin series victory, a World Cup win, a Telstra Premiership and now a WCC triumph.

Bellamy said they don't always get the recognition they deserve.

"I was a really proud coach tonight," he said.

Billy Slater is coming back

The Clive Churchill Medallist has signed a one-year extension to his Storm contract, meaning he will return for one more time around the sun in 2018.

Melbourne announced the news on their official website on Tuesday night.

"We are delighted that Billy has made the decision to pull on the purple jersey again in 2018," Storm chief executive Dave Donaghy said.

"He has been a champion of this club and NRL for over a decade so it is fantastic for the game as a whole that Billy will be back on the field next year.

Billy Slater blanks two weeks

Soliola was on Tuesday night suspended for five games for the dangerous contact that knocked Slater out.

Evidence from Melbourne's head medical official, Dr Jason Chan, claimed the Maroons fullback was "unconscious before he hit the ground".

"Billy knew he was in Canberra, but not that he was at GIO Stadium or why he was there," the report said.

"He had no recollection of previous two weeks. Not aware he had played State of Origin, or that he had injured his ankle that week."

Cronk's decision non-factor for Slater

The 33-year-old is focused on returning to his superstar form after making his comeback from two long injury-plagued years.