Slater completes emotional comeback
It was a comeback story for the ages and on Sunday night it was made perfectly complete.
When Billy Slater’s name was read out as the Clive Churchill medalist it could well have passed for a scene straight out of a feel-good Hollywood movie.
Twelve months ago it was an unlikely dream.
However champion players have a way of achieving the improbable and that is precisely what Slater did this season.
After making his return in Round 3 at AAMI Park against the Broncos, the 34-year-old then set about reclaiming his status as the best fullback in the world.
If there was any doubt going into the weekend, the 80-minutes of Grand Final brilliance he produced should well have put that debate to bed.
Slater was understandably emotional on stage as he was presented with the second Clive Churchill medal of his career.
“When you go through what’s I’ve been through it is hard not to be emotional,” Slater said.
“I love this game, I love playing this game and that was taken away from me. I got injured in Round 5, 2015, that is a long time and I’ve been fighting the battle since then.
“I wasn’t sure if my body would let me get back to playing rugby league let alone in a Grand Final.
“It has been a long road for myself, a lot of people have helped me along the way. Emotion gets the better of me sometimes and that is what overflowed on the stage.”
Slater appeared particularly moved when speaking about his wife Nicole, the woman he credits with getting him through it all and back to the top of the rugby league world.
“My wife has been through what I’ve been through,” Slater said.
“She goes through the emotional roller coaster with me, she has been a great supporter of mine and I just wanted to point out that I really appreciated that. My family have been my rock through the last couple of seasons.
“Sitting out on that field last year with a suit on after we came so close and seeing the heartbreak in my teammates eyes, knowing I was helpless in contributing, that really hurt me.
“I could do something about it this year and I really wanted to make an impact.”