Smith backs Slater to return sooner rather than later

Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith has thrown his weight behind teammate Billy Slater returning from a serious shoulder injury this season.

Though Slater himself revealed less than a month ago he was no certainty to return, Smith is very confident his fullback will be back.

"The good news is Billy Slater will play this year," Smith told The Courier-Mail.

"I don’t have an exact date, but it will be earlier rather than later — the good thing is that the fans will see Billy Slater back on the field again.

"The coaches as far as I know haven’t put any pressure on him to be fit for round one, we’d love him to be there but if he feels he’s not right to go, it’s his decision."

Having played club and representative rugby league with Slater, Smith is hoping for a successful reunion.

"I’ve got my fingers crossed that Billy can get back to the way he can play and the way he wants to play.

"It’s exciting for all of us as teammates and the fans of rugby league to see Billy coming back to his best.

"When Billy was at his peak doing his thing, there wasn’t a better sight in rugby league, he always gave you a sense something would happen.

"I hope he can stay healthy and play out the whole season."

Storm coach Craig Bellamy was a little more conservative in his view of Slater's potential return but does think it's on the cards.

“I’m pretty sure he won’t be playing the first couple of rounds," Bellamy said.

“We’ve waited a long time and we’re not going to take any risks on him physically or mentally.

"We definitely think we can see a light at the end of the tunnel now."