CHAMPION injured Queensland fullback Billy Slater gives instructions in his role as assistant coach during Maroons training.
CHAMPION injured Queensland fullback Billy Slater gives instructions in his role as assistant coach during Maroons training. DAVE HUNT

Former teammate Robbie Kearns backs Billy Slater to return

BILLY Slater is simply too competitive to not bow out on his own terms, says former Storm teammate Robbie Kearns.

Kearns, a front-rower who ran out for 281 first-grade games from 1992 to 2005, played with Slater at the Storm from 2003 to 2005.

The champion fullback is one of the greatest players of his generation, with 278 first-grade games, 25 Tests, 27 Origins and 172 NRL tries in a 14-year career.

But even the Innisfail wizard admitted last month he could have played his last game.

That is despite the Storm providing him with the best possible medical expertise to help him return from a second bout of shoulder surgery for a hopeful swansong in 2017.

But Kearns - who played eight Origins for the Blues and who beat his fair share of injury setbacks - has a message for the doubters.

Don't write off a champion.

"There's a lot of talk surrounding that (Slater possibly retiring). He's 33 years old, and anyone coming back from a shoulder reconstruction at 33 you'd write off 99.9% of them," Kearns told Australian Regional Media.

"But knowing Billy Slater and how competitive he is and knowing the drive he has in him, I dare say he wouldn't want to finish his illustrious career with a bung shoulder.

"I'm not saying he wants to go out in grand final glory, but I reckon he just wants to finish on his terms."

Along with being one of the finest fullbacks to ever play the game, Kearns said Slater was also up there with the best in his attention to detail when recovering from injury.

"There's no better player at looking after injuries and rehabilitation," Kearns said.

"He's an absolute freak. I'm not saying he will or won't but my prediction is we haven't seen the last of Billy Slater just yet."

Kearns said Slater - who has been used as one of Kevin Walters' assistants in the Maroons' coaching set-up this year - would make a great career coach.

"Billy Slater has an amazing football brain," Kearns said.

"But Craig (Storm coach Craig Bellamy) probably does 50-60 hours a week looking at video just analysing opposition teams. He's an absolute freak and his attention to detail is second to none.

"I know Billy loves his coaching but whether or not he'd like to do something like that I'm not too sure.

"So I think at this stage in life, (being an assistant coach at) Origin would only be six weeks of the year and that would suit him down to the wire."

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