Billy Slater came achingly close to playing in Melbourne’s NRL grand final, with his surgeon almost giving him the green light.
The superstar fullback was hopeful of being cleared to play in the Storm’s charge through the finals with his troublesome shoulder feeling good.
But Storm football manager Frank Ponissi said the surgeon decided to err on the side of caution with the 33-year-old, who had a second reconstruction after round one in March.
“He went to see his surgeon last month because he was feeling great within himself and had started training so he decided to ask the question,” Ponissi told SEN radio on Tuesday.
“The surgeon gave him a glowing report but stopped short of giving him the green light to play in September this year.
“It would have been an interesting selection dilemma for Craig (Bellamy).”
While Bellamy wants Slater to play on next year, it would have been very tough to shift Cameron Munster out of the No.1 jersey.
Munster is set to play five-eighth next season following the departure of Blake Green to Manly, but has proved himself one of the game’s most best fullbacks in Slater’s absence.
He was one of the Storm’s best in their preliminary final win over Canberra, setting up their crucial second-half try.
Slater can take some credit for that with Munster, playing in his first grand final, saying the veteran was happy to give him and his fellow backs advice.
He said Slater was in the changeroom at halftime against Canberra, fine-tuning their play.
Munster, 22, said Slater had an eye for pin-pointing the “little things in our game that make a big difference”.
“Whenever Bill’s got an opinion everyone listens and respects it because his call is usually the right one,” Munster said.
“He helped us a lot on the weekend, coming in and telling us what he sees at the back.
“I’m going to be looking for him to help me out a bit in the grand final because it’s going to be a big stage with a lot of emotion and he’s more than happy to help out the team so I’m very lucky to have him around me.”
Despite competing for same position, Munster said he wished Slater was in the line-up.
“All the boys would love him to be playing, including me,” he said.
“I’d be grateful to be playing alongside Billy in a grand final.”