The sight of Billy Slater in the Melbourne dressing room quickly snapped the Storm out of their 2016 NRL grand final disappointment.
But Slater admitted he was no closer to realising whether he would be fit for next season – or whether he had already played his last game.
Melbourne’s Kiwi prop Jesse Bromwich said having Slater in the sheds provided a much needed silver lining following their 14-12 grand final loss to Cronulla at ANZ Stadium on Sunday night.
“That’s probably the only positive at the moment,” Bromwich told AAP.
Time is ticking for 33-year-old Slater, who is hoping to overcome a shoulder complaint and resume a glittering NRL career.
“The next five months will be the key, hopefully I will be at 100 per cent next year,” Slater said.
“It’s hard for me to say ‘I have two years left’ or ‘I am never playing again.’
“I am still hungry to compete.
“If I ever lose that it will be an easy decision to retire but it hasn’t gone just yet.”
Cameron Munster has shone at fullback in Slater’s absence but admitted he would gladly hand the No.1 jersey back to the veteran flyer.
“I am fairly sure Billy will be back next year,” Munster said.
“I want him back. He is a freak of a talent – I can’t wait to play alongside him.
“Whatever number I wear next year I will be happy to do it.”
Munster is expected to slot into pivot in 2017, with Storm playmaker Blake Green leaving for Manly.
Munster said he would emerge next year a better player thanks to Slater.
“In the week before the grand final he could have just pulled up stumps but he rolled up his sleeves and helped us out with attack and defence,” he said.