Cameron Smith is pretty sure the NRL's foothold in Melbourne and the Storm's role in it wouldn't quite be the same without Billy Slater.
The Storm skipper joined the chorus of praise for his teammate and close friend ahead of Saturday night's 300th NRL game.
Over the course of his illustrious career, Slater has claimed the Dally M Medal, two Clive Churchill medals, a Golden Boot award, Melbourne premierships and multiple representative successes with Queensland and Australia.
Smith, who labelled Slater the best fullback he had played with by far, said his impact went beyond awards and titles.
"The thing that I've really admired about Billy is that he's made people feel good about our game," Smith said.
"He's made people want to come to rugby league matches, sit in the cold of Melbourne and watch us play.
"Kids come through and they want to sign up and play rugby league because of what Billy does.
"I think what he did for this club, particularly early on, was pretty special.
"To be able to help put the club on the map in Victoria was a fantastic effort and that was just all on the back of his attitude to playing - he just loves playing rugby league."
Slater will join rugby league's elite 300-game club against the Wests Tigers at AAMI Park after missing the Storm's opening-round win due to a jarred shoulder.
At one time, Smith feared injuries would bring a premature end to his friend's career and marvelled at his ability to reclaim his best form after two shoulder reconstructions.
"For what he's done for this club and this game overall, I think he deserves to be in that special group of 300," he said.
"It's a wonderful achievement, particularly with what he's gone through.
"He had injuries early in his career but, with the two shoulder surgeries he had to go through, there was a stage there where he didn't know if he was even going to play football again.
"For him to come back and have the season he had last year and to be playing his 300th is pretty special and I'm very proud to say that I've played in a lot of those matches with him."