Slater's Maroons legacy reaches new heights
Billy Slater will become the 11th player to reach 30 State of Origin appearances on Sunday, 10 of them are Queenslanders.
His public legacy will include the chip-and-chase try at Suncorp in 2004, his series whitewash clincher off Darren Lockyer in 2010 plus setting up two tries and scoring another to send Lockyer out a winner in 2011.
It's his private legacy that Cameron Munster will remember most.
Munster and halves partner Ben Hunt don't even attempt to underestimate what Slater's return to the field means to them this Sunday.
But his Storm teammate Munster has revealed that it is the part of Slater that is almost like a quasi-coach of any team he plays in that separates Slater from most other teammates.
"The things he can do on the field and at training is ridiculous," Munster says of the Maroons No.1.
"But what people don't know is how hard he works off the field.
"He's like a player and a coach. He spends a heap of time doing his own video on himself and on the opposition. He is like a player and a coach in the making.
"His insight and work ethic are something you'll never see in another fullback in the next 10 or 20 years.
"He'll always do video on other teams and find a weakness in their armor, then he'll share it with the whole team so everyone is on board. He is always willing to listen to other people's opinions too and take it on board but his experience is so invaluable.
"The other great thing about Billy is that he is always accountable for his actions and he makes others accountable for their actions too.
"I still pinch myself that I get to train with him, with our combinations at the Storm it will hopefully be easier for me with the transition to Origin.
"It has made me so much of a better player and, I guess, a better teammate, knowing that he is around me and is going to do his job and I just need to concentrate on mine."
Hunt, who was familiar with hooker Andrew McCullough but not Munster and fullback Michael Morgan in game one, is relishing having Slater behind him to bark orders and come onto the ball with dazzling pace and footwork that more than matches Blues' man of the match in game one, James Tedesco.
"Billy's influence is huge," said the halfback. "His experience; his talk. Just his presence.
"He has been there for so long and he's one of the best players still in the competition. The amount of talk he does at the back, in attack and defence, is awesome and is going to help us so much.
"There's an aura about him I suppose."
The pressure on Slater is that he one of only two Queensland match-winners who is armed with the resume of pulling off clutch plays that matter most in Origin. Greg Inglis is the other.
So many of Slater's telling moments have been in tandem with Lockyer, Thurston, Cooper Cronk or Cameron Smith. Now he completes a Queensland 'spine' that has an aggregate experience of just five Origin games beyond his 15-year repertoire.
Yet to have him next to Inglis, who showed what taking responsibility is all about in game one, adds a magnitude to the Maroons' confidence.
And it would have been felt in the video room, in the team talks, on the training paddock and the one-on-ones with teammates since Queensland came together on Monday.
It will be interesting if Cameron Munster might have it right – is Slater a coach in waiting?
Players with more than 30 State of Origin games:
42 – Cameron Smith (Qld)
37 – Johnathan Thurston (Qld)
36 – Darren Lockyer (Qld)
34 – Allan Langer (Qld)
33 – Petero Civoniceva (Qld)
32 – Mal Meninga (Qld), Nate Myles (Qld)
31 – Brad Fittler (NSW), Wally Lewis (Qld)
30 – Greg Inglis (Qld)
Don't miss Game II of Origin at ANZ Stadium on Sunday June 24. Get your tickets here