Billy Slater of the Storm is tackled by Gavin Cooper of the Cowboys during the round two NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Melbourne Storm at 1300SMILES Stadium on March 16, 2013 in Townsville, Australia.
Billy Slater of the Storm is tackled by Gavin Cooper of the Cowboys during the round two NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Melbourne Storm at 1300SMILES Stadium on March 16, 2013 in Townsville, Australia. Ian Hitchcock / Getty Images

Slater ruled free to play in showdown against Doggies

STAR Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater is free to play in Thursday night's grand final replay against the Bulldogs at AAMI Park.

Slater was hit with a dangerous contact charge by the NRL match review committee on Monday after an incident in Saturday night's match against the Cowboys that resulted in winger Antonio Winterstein being knocked out.

The Storm immediately opted for an early guilty plea to the grade one charge, ensuring their brilliant playmaker could line up against the Dogs.

With Steve Turner announcing his retirement from the game on the weekend due to chronic knee problems, Canterbury coach Des Hasler will again put his faith in young fullback Drury Low on Thursday night.

Despite 2012 Dally M winner Ben Barba training strongly on Monday, Hasler said he would resist the temptation to rush the brilliant custodian back into the line-up after a recent stint in rehab to deal with alcohol and gambling issues.

The coach said Barba's welfare was more important than his football and he was likely to return to the paddock in the Good Friday blockbuster against the Rabbitohs.

While Slater is eligible to play against the Dogs, teammate Siosaia Vave will miss one week after entering an early guilty plea to a grade one dangerous contact charge for a tackle on Cowboys prop Matt Scott.

Vave had carryover points from a previous charge.



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