An injury to Billy Slater’s left shoulder has opened the door for Greg Inglis to grab the Kangaroos’ fullback jersey for the Anzac Test against New Zealand on May 1.
Slater is expected to miss a month of action after aggravating an old shoulder injury during Melbourne’s 30-14 NRL win over the Warriors.
He was smashed in a tackle by giant Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei, which is when the injury is thought to have flared up.
A replacement the calibre of Inglis will hardly hurt Australia’s chances against the Kiwis.
Slater was running at full tilt with the ball, glancing to his left as the Warriors gave chase.
But the real danger was from Slater’s right, with Vatuvei closing on him like a laser-guided weapon.
Slater also needed a right shoulder reconstruction at the end of last season.
“It’s my ‘good’ bad one (shoulder),” Slater said.
The Storm said Slater had managed a labral tear of the Glenohumeral joint in his left shoulder for some time.
Their plan is to let the joint settle down and strengthen over the next month.
Slater was in good spirits on Wednesday, despite carrying his left arm in a sling.
He and Vatuvei are friends and Slater said there were no hard feelings.
“He snuck up on me, the big fella – it was just one of those things,” Slater said.
“I honestly didn’t see him coming until I was on the ground.
“Once he realised I was in a bit of pain, his main focus was to make sure I was okay.
“He even asked me at halftime, when we were walking off, if I was feeling alright.
“He’s a good guy, but obviously when we’re out on the field, we don’t hold back.”
Slater said it was no surprise to sustain some heavy hits against a team as physical as the Warriors.
“I was quite impressed with the way we bounced back from a disappointing loss up in Townsville,” he said of Sunday’s win.
“It was important to perform well here at home and the Warriors perform well here all the time.
“They have a lot of support over in Melbourne – a lot of Kiwis obviously in Victoria.
“It’s quite tough to beat them over here.”