Storm fans will have to wait just a little bit longer for the return of Billy Slater.

The champion fullback has been all but ruled of the Club’s season opener against the Bulldogs next Friday night.

Head Coach Craig Bellamy confirmed the news at Melbourne’s season launch on Friday.

“I’m pretty sure he won’t be playing the first couple of rounds but everything is going along pretty well to be quite honest,” Bellamy said.

“We are really happy with the way it is progressing but I am pretty sure he won’t be out there next week.”

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While anticipation had been building that Slater would be fit for Round 1, the Club and player alike are taking a long-term view towards the remainder of the season.

As good a sight it would have been to see the 33-year-old out there next Friday, the grueling 26-week season means there is plenty of football ahead.

“We obviously don’t want to put him out there if there is going to be any risk at all,” Bellamy said.

“He’s been around a long time, he understands he’s got to be physically right but he has to be mentally right as well.

“It has taken a little bit to pull him back at stages but there have been times where he’s come to us and thought it was a better to pull back.

“We have waited a long time so we are not going to take any risks on him physically or mentally.”

Storm kick-off their 2017 campaign at 6pm next Friday night against the Canterbury Bulldogs at Belmore Sports Ground.