Slater caps incredible comeback with Churchill Medal win
WHEN Billy Slater was named the Clive Churchill Medallist after Melbourne's grand final victory over the Cowboys, tears started to instantly stream down the face of his wife, Nicole.
They say behind every great man is a great woman and that is exactly what Nicole has been to her husband, not just over the last two years, but since they started dating in early 2005.
She has ridden every high and every low of his long, glittering career.
When the Storm superstar was awarded one of the most prestigious accolades in the game, the moment meant so much to her because she knows better than anyone what he has been through to get to this point.
Slater's challenges are well-documented. He battled through two shoulder reconstructions over the past few seasons and for a while he even doubted if he would ever play again.
But Nicole was the woman who kept him strong.
"It's very surreal ... it feels not true,” she said.
"I've been hoping for this fairy tale but sometimes I don't want to be greedy either.
"I feel like the fact we got out and did one game this year, but then it (progressed) to Origin and then to being here and winning the Clive Churchill Medal, it's amazing.
"I know that when he's in the lowest of lows, it's probably not what I do say, but what I don't say. We don't talk about footy at home and I think that helps to a certain degree.
"Like with anything and anyone, if they go through a trauma, it doesn't matter what it is, it really makes you sit back in your seat and start to look at the little things.
"You don't take anything for granted. Any milestone, no matter how big or small, you just really enjoy it. That's what our family has been doing for the last 12 months.”
Another special aspect of the victory was the fact the couple's children, Tyla, 8, and Jake, 6, will be able to remember this grand final.
Nicole said they were too young to understand much of what happened in 2012 and would be able to cherish this memory forever.
As for Slater's future, he is still yet to indicate whether he will play on in 2018 but Nicole said she will support him either way.
"I'm all for whatever Bill wants to do,” she said.
"We're so proud of him. If that means going around again, he's definitely got the approval from me.
"I don't hold him back from anything. It will come down to him at the end of the day.”