Melbourne Storm champion Billy Slater has announced he will retire from rugby league at the end of the 2018 NRL season.
Slater, who has played 313 games, told his Storm teammates of his decision on Wednesday morning, ending one of the most decorated careers in the rugby league history.
Slater has played in six grand finals for Melbourne, winning four of them. His ability to consistently perform on the biggest stage is amplified by the fact Slater holds the current record holder for most tries in NRL Finals history (21).
The 35-year-old has a list of achievements that speak for themselves - he is a three-time Dally M Fullback of the Year, two-time Clive Churchill Medallist, two-time Wally Lewis Medallist, two-time Storm Player of the Year, 2011 Dally M Player of the Year and 2008 Golden Boot winner.
Match: Storm v Sharks
Round 22 -
Venue: AAMI Park
Slater will also retire as one of the most decorated representative players of all time.
He made 31 appearances for Queensland - equal ninth all-time alongside Immortal Wally Lewis - and been part of eight State of Origin series victories in the Maroons jersey. His final Origin game for Queensland this year saw him captain Queensland to victory at Suncorp Stadium.
He has also tasted the ultimate success on the world stage with won two World Cups triumphs during his 30 Test appearances in the green and gold for Australia.
Sixteen years after scoring that breakaway try on debut at Shark Park back in 2003 - Slater became the 30th player to join the NRL's illustrious 300-Club in Round 2, 2018.
His 313 games in the purple jersey are matched only by Cameron Smith (377) and Cooper Cronk (323), teammates with whom he shared such an incredible run of success with over the last 15 seasons.
Arguably Slater's greatest accomplishment though came away from the spotlight. After two consecutive shoulder reconstructions cruelled his 2015 and 2016 seasons, there were doubts whether the NRL world had seen the best of Billy Slater.
Yet last year the champion climbed back to the top of the mountain and reclaimed his place as the best fullback in the world - a moment crowned by receiving the Clive Churchill Medal following his best afield performance against North Queensland in last year's Grand Final victory.
"I have given everything I possibly can to this game but have received so much more in return. When I first came down to Melbourne at the end of 2002 I could never have imagined I would be where I am today.
"I would like to thank all my teammates, coaches, support staff and all the fans for the incredible support they have given me throughout my career.
"I would especially like to acknowledge my family. My parents Ron and Judy, my sister Sheena, wife Nicole and the kids - you guys have ridden the wave with me every step of the way, supporting me when I needed you most and I have loved celebrating the incredible highs together as a family.
"Now that I have made my decision, my focus is to continually give everything possible to the Melbourne Storm."
Melbourne Storm CEO Dave Donaghy paid special tribute on behalf of the Club to one its greatest ever players:
"There are no words that could do justice for what Billy Slater has done for Melbourne Storm, the NRL and the wider rugby league community over the last 16 years.
"His on-field highlights will continue to be shown for many years to come however it is the manner in which he has carried himself off the field that will remain one of his biggest contributions.
"Billy has represented our game with nothing but class and distinction throughout his playing career. Our Club is proud to have a player of the calibre and character of Billy Slater represent the purple jersey for his entire career.
"We wish Billy, Nicole and the kids all the best for the next chapter of their lives and look forward to forever having them as part of the Storm family."
Billy Slater's career
- 313 NRL/Storm games
- 187 career tries
- Queensland: State of Origins 31 (2004-present)
- Australia: Tests 30 (2008-present); World Cups 2008, 2013, 2017; Four Nations 2009-2011
- Grand Finals: 7 - Melbourne 2006 (L), 2007 (W), 2008 (L), 2009 (W), 2012 (W), 2017 (W)
- World Club Challenges: 4 - Melbourne 2008 (L), 2010 (W), 2013 (W), 2018 (W)
- Third most games played in Storm history
- 30th player to join the NRL's 300-Club
- Third most points scored in Storm history - 748
- 3x Dally M Fullback of the Year (2008, 2011, 2017)
- 2x Clive Churchill Medallist (2009, 2017)
- 2x Storm Player of the Year (2008, 2009)
- 2x RLIF Fullback of the Year (2008, 2011)
- 2x RLIF Player of the Year
- 2x Wally Lewis Medallist (2010, 2018)
- Dally M Player of the Year (2011)
- Dally M Representative Player of the Year (2010)
- Golden Boot (2008)
- Storm record for most tries scored - 187 (Second most in NRL history)
- Most tries in NRL finals history - 21
- Third most points scored in Storm history - 748
- Equal-most tries in a game by a Storm player - 4 v Manly at Docklands, 2009 Qualifying Final