Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has emphatically ruled out any chance of injured fullback Billy Slater playing again this NRL season.
Slater this week underwent his second shoulder reconstruction in nine months and was given a recovery time frame of six to eight months.
That could put him in the mix for a finals appearance should the Storm make the top eight but Bellamy said Slater would not play this year.
“There’s not a hope in hell … we won’t be seeing him again this year – no way,” Bellamy said.
The Storm mentor said he wasn’t across the details why a second reconstruction was required.
He said Slater couldn’t remember re-injuring the shoulder in round one against St George Illawarra or through the pre-season, although he admitted it wasn’t at 100 per cent heading into round one.
“I’m not sure anyone really knows what has or hasn’t happened,” he said.
“At the time, we thought he was OK to play although he wasn’t 100 per cent.
“He’s very experienced and has had a few shoulder operations and he felt he was OK to play as well.”
He said Slater was frustrated by the setback but had taken the news as well as possible and believed the Test custodian wouldn’t make any final decisions on his playing future until he completed his rehabilitation.
“He’s a pretty optimistic sort of fella, Bill, so I’m sure he’ll get back to normal pretty soon,” Bellamy said.
While losing Slater is a massive blow, it has been eased by having rising star Cameron Munster, after deputising at fullback last year, ready to go.
Munster scored a try in their round-two match when Slater was ruled out.
His only concern was how the 21-year-old would handle a full season in the top grade.
The Storm were hopeful of locking off-contract Munster down until the end of 2019 but Bellamy didn’t think the cloud over Slater would impact those negotiations and make them any more urgent.
“We always wanted to keep him so I don’t think this makes it any more important,” Bellamy said.