Veteran fullback Billy Slater says his omission from the Australian Test team has been a blessing in disguise and has him primed for this month’s opening State of Origin clash.
On the comeback trail following two rounds of shoulder surgery, Melbourne Storm’s Slater was overlooked for the Kangaroos’ Test win over New Zealand last week.
The 33-year-old said he played his best game of the year in the Storm’s last round win over St George Illawarra, and after sitting out last season injured is desperate to again don the Maroons jersey.
“I’m a Queenslander I haven’t played for Queensland for a couple of years and I’d love the opportunity to get back in that arena,” Slater said.
“It’s obviously a very strong side but there’s still a couple of rounds of footy to go and hopefully I can continue playing good football.”
After playing seven rounds Slater said the time off for representative round was just what he needed.
“My shoulder is going really well,” he said.
“It was disappointing not to play in the Test last week but I think that week off has certainly been good for me and I’ve got my body in a really good position.”
Slater said he’d been in regular contact with Queensland coach Kevin Walters but wouldn’t give any hints away about whether he or incumbent Darius Boyd would wear the Maroons No.1 jersey.
“He’s a good mate and a teammate – it’s not a rivalry between Darius and myself,” Slater said.
“Darius is a fantastic fullback and he’s probably playing the best that he’s played in his whole career and he’s a great asset for Queensland so wherever we are it will be what’s best for Queensland and the selectors and coach will come up with that.”
Maroons match-winning five-eighth Johnathan Thurston is in a race against time to be fit for the May 31 opener in Brisbane, sidelined for three to six weeks with a shoulder injury.
Slater said Queensland was spoilt for choice if they needed a replacement.
“Anthony Milford and Dale Cherry-Evans; Corey Norman’s another one who’s playing really well or we’ve got Michael Morgan there who been playing well off the bench so he would slot nicely into a No.6 jersey and do a fantastic job.
“There’s a number of players putting their hand up and Kevvie and the selectors have got some options there.”