National News

Billy Slater was close to the end: Smith

The full extent of Billy Slater's two-year battle with injury has been revealed ahead of the Queensland great's remarkable State of Origin return.

Maroons skipper Cameron Smith admitted his Melbourne teammate Slater was very close to giving rugby league away after ongoing shoulder dramas and almost hit breaking point after watching the Storm play the 2016 NRL grand final from the sidelines.

Asked about Slater's Origin return, Smith revealed it was an achievement just for the veteran to return to the game he loved.

"His shoulder was in a pretty ordinary shape," Smith said.

"I don't know if he has let on just how bad it was, it was pretty close to not giving him the opportunity to play again.

"And even before he got through rehab he watched his club side make a grand final - I know it was hard for him.

"So for him to put in the amount of work he has put in, the hours of rehabilitation, it's really remarkable.

"I think he just wanted one more opportunity to go around and play again and he has certainly made the most of that."

Now that Slater is back for the 29th Origin he thought he may never play, Smith simply hoped they could utilise the veteran flyer in their game two ANZ Stadium clash on Wednesday night.

"Bill has got genuine speed at the back of our plays and that is what worries defences - speed," Smith said.

"He's very strong out the back with high kicks and very good with his organisational skills (defensively) but I just hope we get an opportunity to use him.

"First and foremost we need to be in a situation to do that.

"If they do then hopefully that results in some points for us."

Smith said it would be reassuring for Queensland ahead of their crunch clash just to see Slater back in the No.1 jersey after reclaiming it from incumbent Darius Boyd.

"That is not a slight at all on Darius," Smith said of Boyd who controversially denied Slater the No.1 jersey for game one.

"It was hard not to pick him (Slater) in game one considering he (Boyd) did such a great series last year for Queensland and he is the current Australian fullback.

"But in saying that I have played my entire career with Billy at fullback and he is one of the greatest players not just in his position, he is one of the greatest players of all time.

"I am looking forward to seeing him play for Queensland again."

© AAP 2017

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