Slater is a football freak

Michael Hagan March 12, 2012, 2:07 am

I sat back and watched Billy Slater

dismantle South Sydney on Sunday night and wondered just where this
bloke will sit in the history of our great game.

Slater is a football freak. It is that simple.

More
often than not Slater is the difference between his side - whether it
be Melbourne, Queensland or Australia - winning or losing. He is that
important.

He is not just good but consistently good. He sets such a high standard each week.

What about his brilliance in that match against the Rabbitohs? He was awesome.

I
think back to the great full-back Graeme Langlands. I am too young to
remember 'Chang' at his very best but history says he was a true legend.
An Immortal.

Of the modern era, we have had some wonderful
full-backs like Graham Eadie, Garry Jack, Anthony Minichiello, Brett
Stewart, Jarryd Hayne, Greg Brentnall, Gary Belcher and, of course,
Darren Lockyer before he switched to five-eighth.

Rating different
players from different eras is always dangerous but I couldn't put any
of these players ahead of Billy Slater, remembering that Lockyer spent
half his wonderful career at number six.

Slater will be a
decade-long rep player - and they are hard to find these days.
Queenslanders in the past to stay in their beloved Maroons jumper for 10
years include Lockyer, Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga, Gene Miles and Allan
Langer.

That is the company Slater is now keeping.

In all my time around football, I cannot recall a more professional and intense trainer than Slater.

It's no co-incidence that he is a star on the field given the work he achieves off the paddock.

He
is like an on-field coach. He has a huge influence over his side's
defence and the back three. That allows Storm players Cam Smith and
Cooper Cronk to see things differently.

While on Melbourne, I
thought they were strong against Souths and look headed for another
terrific season. They can beat any side in the competition with the 'big
three' - Smith, Slater and Cronk - out there.

Canterbury has impressed me under Des Hasler.

It
seems Hasler has already made a robust impact at Belmore. Wayne Bennett
looks to have settled in at Newcastle and I reckon Ivan Cleary will do a
top job at Penrith. All three had strong wins in Round 2.

But no matter how good a coach is it is difficult to plot against a player like Slater.

He will go down as one of the all-time greats in rugby league.