Smith: Billy’s the greatest I’ve seen
MELBOURNE Storm captain Cameron Smith says Billy Slater is the best fullback of his generation.
Slater will play his 300th NRL game on Saturday night at AAMI Park against West Tigers.
The declaration comes after Storm premiership coach Craig Bellamy on Tuesday said Slater had changed the way fullbacks played the game over the past 16 seasons.
"I've had the pleasure of playing with some wonderful fullbacks but I think Billy's by far the best fullback I've played with," Smith said.
"Fortunately I haven't had to play against him.
"I'm saying that with all due respect to the other guys that have played fullback, but he by far ticks every box that you want as a fullback.
"The thing that separates him from the rest is his communication with all of his teammates both with the ball and without it.
"His ability to be a running fullback or ball playing fullback and some of the big plays he comes up with defensively is pretty hard to go by."
Slater is set to be the 31st NRL player in history to reach the 300-game milestone and only the third Storm player ever, behind Smith (359) and Cooper Cronk (323).
"He took a lot of skill areas out of other people's game and added to his, he knew he had to evolve as a fullback if he wanted to continue building his career," Smith said.
"He wasn't going to live off a couple of flash tries that he picked off early in the (2003) season."
Smith credited Slater's resilience to bounce back from two shoulder reconstructions.
The dazzling fullback missed games early in his career with knee and groin complaints.
"It's been a long time now that he's been hovering around that 300 mark," Slater said.
"I'm glad now that he gets that opportunity to do that for what he's done for this club and for the game overall I think he deserves to be in that special group of 300.
"There was a stage there where he didn't even know if he was going to play football again so for him to come back and have the season that he did last year and now to play his 300th is pretty special."