Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy says it’s premature to call time on Billy Slater’s Test career following his latest shoulder injury.
The 31-year-old Kangaroos custodian will be sidelined for a month after injuring his shoulder in Melbourne’s impressive NRL win over the Warriors and he will miss the May Test against New Zealand.
With Greg Inglis a ready replacement in the Australian line-up, there’s a question mark over Slater’s representative future.
But Bellamy said Slater had proven even in the twilight of his career that he was still worthy of a Test jersey.
“It’s certainly premature because if everything goes well he will be back in a month’s time so to say he’ll never play for Australia again … whoever said that needs a re-think,” Bellamy said.
“From what we’ve seen this year I think Billy Slater’s still capable of playing for Australia again, without a doubt.”
He said that the 25-Test veteran was shattered to again be sidelined after missing last year’s Four Nations through surgery on his other shoulder.
“It’s strange a guy who has played as much footy as he has to be so devastated to be missing some games,” Bellamy said.
“He just loves footy and we saw that the other night when he was injured but wouldn’t come off.”
Bellamy is uncertain who will replace Slater at fullback for their clash with Canberra at GIO Stadium on Sunday afternoon and said he may not decide until Saturday.
Rising star Kurt Mann is the natural selection after converting from fullback to centre this year but Bellamy said he wasn’t sure about further upsetting his backline.
“Kurt’s played fullback as much as anyone else in the club so that’s an option for us,” Bellamy said.
“But he’s been playing really well in a side of the field that’s been consistent for us as well so we have to take that into consideration.
Another option was exciting 20-year-old Cameron Munster, who filled in at fullback in round 12 last year when Slater was injured.
Munster has been named in the Storm’s feeder team, East Tigers, in the Queensland Cup to play on Sunday.
“He’s a terrific young player and he’s been playing pretty good in the Queensland Cup.
“He’s only played one first grade game so it’s a big call to put him in but he’s certainly one of the options as well.”