Melbourne fullback Billy Slater says his outstanding young deputy Cameron Munster has developed even more in the pre-season, but won’t necessarily end up at five-eighth for the 2016 NRL season.
Sidelined for most of 2015 by a shoulder injury, Australian and Queensland stalwart Slater played only seven games, by far the lowest tally in his 13 seasons of senior football.
Munster, who had played just one senior game before last season, filled the gap superbly with seven tries in 19 matches and earning rave reviews for his consistency.
With 32-year-old Slater on track to return for the start of the 2016 campaign, Munster will have to find another position.
Although his name has been linked to the five-eighth spot occupied by Blake Green, he might end up elsewhere in the backs, with centre Kurt Mann and winger Matt Duffie having both left the club.
“I think we’re pretty happy with Blake Green at No.6,” Slater told AAP on Tuesday at the 2016 Auckland Nines jersey launch in Sydney.
“We lost a centre and a winger at the end of last year.
“Cameron had a great season last season and, even this pre-season, I’ve seen him develop even further and he will be looking to have a big 2016.
“It’s a lot harder coming into your second year than it is your first and everyone is aware of what you’re good at and they mark you up a little bit easier.
“But I’m sure he’ll be in our 17 somewhere and he’s a great attribute to our side.”
Slater was happy with the way his shoulder was progressing and confirmed he could make his Nines debut in February.
“Everything is going to plan,” Slater said.
“I’m back training doing skills, I haven’t done any contact work just yet, but I’m pretty happy with where the shoulder’s at.
“There’s a huge chance, all being well, I’ll be over there at the Nines.
“It’s something that’s pretty exciting. It takes the seriousness away from playing the game of footy. It takes you back to your childhood, I imagine.”
He felt departing Queensland coach Mal Meninga had left a strong legacy and structure after accepting the Kangaroos job.
“He put in place a lot of good people around him; I think that foundation that he’s built there will hold up in Mal’s absence,” Slater said.