Kangaroos fullback Billy Slater says he’s grateful for the chance to prove his fitness for Friday night’s trans-Tasman rugby league Test but still unsure if he can pass it.
Slater said on Monday he was flattered to have been included in the Kangaroos’ squad despite not playing for three weeks due to a shoulder injury.
“I don’t take for granted this Australian jersey,” said Slater, who faces a fitness test on Tuesday to settle his availability.
The 31-year-old veteran of 25 Tests vowed he would not play if not ready.
“Every chance I get to play for Australia I relish,” he said. “But I am not going to be a liability for the side.
“I am grateful to be given this opportunity.
“I will make sure I am confident playing my role (if I am to play).”
If Slater fails the fitness test, Greg Inglis will move to fullback with Michael Jennings coming in to fill the centre vacancy.
“I am feeling okay but I have to get over a few hurdles to make myself available to play,” Slater said.
“The body feels alright but I am not playing football at the moment.
“Until I put myself under duress and situations I will find myself in on the football field I can’t give you an answer.
“I was close to playing for the Storm (last weekend) but it just wasn’t quite ready – another week down the track we will see how we go.”
Test captain Cameron Smith was grateful Melbourne teammate Slater was keen for the early fitness deadline ahead of the clash with Australia’s Four Nations series conquerors New Zealand.
“He will make a decision early, not leave it until the 11th hour so everyone knows,” Smith said.
“But I have no idea (if he is fit). He tried to be a part of the team last week against Manly and failed.”
The other Kangaroos injury concern, Luke Lewis, confirmed he would be fit after suffering a knee complaint.
Smith will lead a squad that boasts four rookies – Melbourne teammate Will Chambers, Dragons teammates Trent Merrin and Josh Dugan and South Sydney flyer Alex Johnston.
Chambers slots into the centres at the expense of Broncos veteran Justin Hodges.
It ensured Brisbane captain Hodges won’t add to his 13-Test tally after he confirmed last weekend that he will retire from representative football at the end of 2015.
“Hodgo just hasn’t been on the park enough unfortunately,” Smith said of Hodges’ snub.
“I didn’t have much input into this team, being a one-off Test, but I am happy with this team.”