Melbourne and Queensland have been dealt heavy blows after star fullback Billy Slater was ruled out for the rest of the NRL season.
Slater on Thursday night confirmed he would undergo season-ending surgery on his injured shoulder.
Not only is it a major setback for Queensland going into the July 8 State of Origin series decider at Suncorp Stadium, it is a blow to the Storm’s premiership chances.
After being assessed by Storm medical staff on Wednesday, Slater made the decision to have the surgery next week to repair a labral tear of his Glenohumeral joint, bringing his campaign to an abrupt halt.
He first suffered the injury when he was belted by Warriors giant Manu Vatuvei in round 5 and has played just four games since then, including the two opening Origin encounters.
“After each game I play, the battle to get up for the next week is becoming harder and the shoulder takes longer to settle down, not allowing me to play to my full potential,” Slater said.
“Each week, I’ve been focused on getting up for the next game and was able to do that for Origin on Wednesday night at the MCG, however the best decision is to undergo surgery now.
“I’m extremely disappointed not to be available to play for Queensland in game three and especially for the rest of the season with Melbourne Storm.”
Slater was targeted by NSW in Wednesday night’s Origin II after copping criticism from NSW skipper Paul Gallen in the build up.
Gallen claimed that the Storm No.1 had been booked in for surgery prior to the game. He pointed to it as an example of Queensland’s arrogance and that the Maroons believed they were shoo-ins to wrap up the series at the MCG.
Slater showed few signs of pain during the game despite his shoulder being heavily tested by the Blues.
Greg Inglis is a certainty to slot into the No.1 role for the Maroons with Newcastle’s Dane Gagai – who was cover for Slater for Origin II – likely to go into the side.
The Storm sit in fourth spot after 14 rounds however their premiership chances took a hit with Slater’s season-ending injury.
That’s likely to open the door for 20-year-old Cameron Munster, who has regularly deputised for Slater this year and been impressive in recent weeks.