Scouting Stories: Billy's debut

It was Round 1, 2003.

Melbourne Storm had a new coach by the name of Craig Bellamy and the purple faithful were desperate to see what the team would be like under a new regime.

However things could not have got off to a worse start.

Storm found themselves trailing 22-nil early in the game and staring down the barrel of an embarrassing defeat to Cronulla at Shark Park.

Enter a kid called Billy Slater.

In the shadows of half-time the 19-year-old swooped in at dummy half, picked up the ball on his own 40-metre line and blitzed through the Cronulla defence to run the entire field and score in the left corner.

Of the 188 tries he has scored in his career, that first one stands out.

"I don't remember a lot of my tries but one I do remember is my debut try," Slater said.

"I look back at the footage and my legs are going all over the place, I reckon I've got a double XL jersey on that comes down (my arm). Times have changed a little bit."

Players are often overcome with emotion when they cross the try line for the first time but being low on energy and the situation did not really cater for over celebration.
"I was too tired to celebrate," Slater said.

"I just got up and all the boys were there. We were down 22-nil at that stage and that try put us at 22-4 so I think it was more relief than celebrating."

That try kick-started a miraculous comeback that saw Melbourne pull off a famous 36-32 victory to signal the start of an unparalleled era of success for the Club.

Slater is now preparing for his final game in Melbourne, having put rugby league on the map in this city in a stellar career spanning 317 games.

And you could see from that first outing at Shark Park, he had what it took to be one of the all-time greats.

"You could see straight away the desire he had and the hunger," Craig Bellamy said.

"From the first week he was down here, he was really hungry.

"He has been one hell of a competitor, one hell of a player and one hell of a person.

"He has meant a whole lot to the Club and it has been a real joy for me to be involved with him as his coach. It has been a great ride."