No Billy Slater, no problems.
That’s the attitude Melbourne are carrying into the NRL finals as accidental No.1 Cameron Munster continues to blossom in the Australian custodian’s stead.
Many ruled a line through the Storm’s premiership chances when Billy Slater was ruled out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury in June.
With one of the “Big Three” watching from the stands, the Storm were seen to be missing a key piece of the puzzle.
Proof of his growing combination with hooker Cameron Smith and halfback Cooper Cronk was again on show in the side’s 30-2 rout of Cronulla on Monday night.
After finishing with a try, a try assist, six tackle busts and a game-high 271 metres, Smith said Munster was quickly answering critics who said the side would flounder with him wearing the No.1 jumper.
“He’s getting a bit more time at the back there now. He was sort of in and out that fullback role when Billy was playing, in the centres in the halves, at fullback. He was sort of Mr. Fix-It for us for a while,” Smith said.
“He’s settled in that position and he’s getting a lot of time back there. I think he feels comfortable at No.1.”
Smith revealed Munster was initially seen as a temporary fix to their fullback crisis but had grown in the job.
The Storm captain admitted there had been a learning curve after Slater’s loss, with the side dropping three in a row after his injury, but they have since adapted and recovered to sit one win outside the top four.
“It took him a little bit, there was no question we struggled in the first three or four weeks after Billy was injured,” Smith said.
“Cameron was put there as a temporary Mr. Fix-It but he’s really grown in that position now.”