Maroons rocked by another retirement
THE Maroons have been rocked by another Origin bombshell with champion fullback Billy Slater announcing he will retire from representative football after this year's series.
Just a fortnight after Cameron Smith stepped down from Queensland and Australian duties this season, his Storm clubmate Slater today revealed the 2018 series will be his final Origin campaign.
It is another blow for the record-breaking Maroons, who will enter Origin I tomorrow week at the MCG without the Big Three of Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk.
Slater will join a special club in Game One when he plays his 30th Origin game, which will see him become the 10th Queensland player to enter the elite Statesman's Club.
By the end of the series, Slater, if he stays fit, will have played more Origin games than NSW legend Brad Fittler (31) and Queensland icon Wally 'The King' Lewis (31).
"I just feel it's time," Slater said.
"To be honest, I can't give you a real answer on why exactly (he's retiring from rep footy), but I'm 35 this year, this will be my 15th year for Queensland.
"I had a fair indication that the World Cup last year would be the last time I played for Australia, it's been on my mind for a while, I always felt this would be my last Origin series.
"The guys that have gone last year (Thurston and Cronk) and Cam's decision had no bearing for me.
"I just made the decision myself.
"The pressure is relieved letting everyone know and being honest."
Queensland coach Kevin Walters lauded Slater's contribution to the Maroons, which started with his magical Origin try at Suncorp in 2004.
"I was a little bit shocked, but I understand he can't keep playing forever," he said.
"This time last year I was nearly in tears because we didn't have him in the team and now he gets to go out on his terms.
"Billy Slater epitomises what Origin is all about, a kid who makes it from the bush and turns the game upside down.
"He has changed the way fullbacks play and to have him for 15 years is a dream for all Queenslanders.
"Everyone would remember Billy's great Origin try and that makes kids want to be like Billy Slater.
"He has been phenomenal for Queensland."
Slater is expected to retire from the NRL at season's end, but the Storm custodian insists he hasn't made a decision yet on his club future.
"I'm off contract at the end of the year and I haven't made a decision beyond 2018, but if I do play on, it won't involve representative footy," he said.
"I'm excited about helping the young guys this year.
"It's a huge honour to get to 30 games for Queensland. I've got so many great memories but playing Origin at 20 years old was a huge moment in my life.
"Last year was a huge moment to come back from injury and win the series."