Slater helps steel Munster for NRL final

Injured fullback Billy Slater won’t physically take part in Melbourne’s NRL premiership push but the superstar is still helping the Storm.

He managed just one game this season because of a shoulder injury and the 33-year-old is no certainty to return in 2017.

Slater could be excused for seeking solitude in September, knowing he won’t be on the park to help Melbourne’s bid for their first title since salary cap sanctions.

But the 2011 Dally M winner has remained a sounding board for protege Cameron Munster, who looms as a key player in Saturday night’s AAMI Park qualifying final between Storm and North Queensland.

“He knows a lot about the finals stage and I had a bit of a chat to him the other day,” Munster said on Wednesday.

“Just embrace it and just enjoy it – that’s pretty much what he said.

“And just don’t take anything for granted.

“Billy’s a class player and a freak of a talent, so I’m a little bit different to him but I’m trying my best to fill that position.”

Munster covered for Slater in 2015, including the finals series, and has impressed as a regular No.1 for the minor premiers in 2016.

He noted Slater had helped him become more comfortable with the added responsibilities.

“Billy and Adam O’Brien, our assistant coach, have helped me a lot with our plays, our structure and that sort of stuff,” he said.

Munster will need to be at his best to defuse a potent Cowboys side led by gifted playmaker Johnathan Thurston.

The 21-year-old, who hails from Rockhampton and was part of the Cowboys’ development squad before joining the Storm, is still in awe of Thurston.

“I did look up to him. He’s a really good player and a freak of a talent, so to play against him I still pinch myself every now and then,” Munster said.

“We’ve got to be on our game for him and I guess try and minimise his timing and vision.

“It’s going to be very hard because he’s one of the best players in the world.

“We’ll be trying to put him off his game as much as we can.”

Melbourne have defeated the Cowboys twice this season but Munster knows that isn’t cause for confidence against the reigning premiers.

“It’s a different season,” he said.

“They’ve been really consistent this year. We know we’re going to have to produce our best performance against them (to win).”

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