Slater deserved to retire his way
BILLY Slater has deserved the chance to go out his way.
Better still, the Melbourne Storm legend earned the privilege through hard work, grit and determination.
Not to say other sporting icons shouldn't or haven't, but Slater, 35, could so easily had called it quits two years ago, when parked on the Tullamarine Freeway in tears at the news he would need a second shoulder reconstruction.
If not then, Slater could have thrown in the towel laying in hospital post-op with a mountain of rehab just to get his body back in shape to play with his children, Jake and Tyla, let alone worry about any Storm commitments.
It took a toll mentally and physically, staring down the inevitable - retirement - brought on well before its time.
But the son of a hard-as-nails league man from Innisfail, Queensland, who worked in cane fields to support the family, simply refused to give up.
Slowly but surely he would rebuild the troublesome joint, with the help of world class medical and high performance experts.
His wife Nicole rode shotgun throughout, including the sleepless nights spent on the bedroom floor so that the Immortal-in-waiting could rehab his twice surgically-repaired shoulder.
Slater's ability to absorb setbacks only made him stronger.
His legacy stands up to any measure, having won four grand finals in a decorated career spanning 16 seasons and more than 300 games.
But what Slater has done for the code itself is arguably his greatest legacy.
Children buzz around backyards in rugby league country pretending to be like "Billy".
Slater revolutionised the game and his position, but just as importantly, he made kids want to play the game.
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