MELBOURNE Storm icons Billy Slater and Cameron Smith will be immortalised with statues at AAMI Park.
The government and Storm-funded venture was announced yesterday at Gosch’s Paddock in front of hundreds of fans welcoming back the grand final team.
“I’m really proud of the contribution that I’ve made to rugby league in this state and to have a statue of Cameron and myself out the front of AAMI Park is something that I’m really proud of,” the now retired Slater said.
“My kids will be able to grow up in this town and see their dad and what their dad’s done for our game in this state. “Excited to see what it looks like, but it will be good.”
Slater yesterday flatly ruled out any backflip on retirement, content to be stepping down after 319 NRL appearances.
Despite the grand final loss to the Roosters and a firm belief he could play on, Slater, 35, is excited about life after football. “No. No. I’m done. It’s my time,” Slater said. “I have no doubt that I could play another year but I’ve had my fair share of serious injuries and to be able to walk away from the game healthy and fit I see it as a great opportunity. I’ve achieved everything that I’ve set out to do and if I went on it’d be purely just to play, and that’s OK, but for me it’s time.”
Slater’s success includes two premierships (2012, ’17), two Clive Churchill Medals and Golden Boot and Dally M awards. He played 31 Origins for Queensland and 30 Tests for Australia.
Slater signed off with another strong effort in his seventh grand final since 2006, amassing 134m in his swansong. Although booed mercilessly during the grand final, he laughed off the reception.
“You play at away grounds and they’re passionate supporters,” Slater said.
“If Wally Lewis can cop boos (then) I’ll be OK with it.”
He also stopped short of adding to the impasse between Cameron Smith and Storm.
Smith dropped the bombshell last week that he had considered retiring this season.
While Slater expects Smith to play on, he won’t be putting any pressure on him. “Who am I to tell Cameron Smith what to do with his life,” he said.Not a bad recognition for a shit bloke