'The decision will be made, I'm not too sure when'
BILLY Slater has put all talk of 2018 to one side and narrowed his future focus to just securing victory in Friday's preliminary final against Brisbane.
Off contract at season's end, the Melbourne Storm fullback knows his last game in purple could be this week, or next should his team advance to a seventh grand final in the past 11 years under coach Craig Bellamy.
The widely held expectation is the 34-year-old will play on next year, but having watched his club's past two finals series in a suit because of injury, including last year's grand final loss to Cronulla, Slater is too experienced to let thoughts beyond the job at hand get in his way.
"I'm not trying to do anything really other than trying to really enjoy the opportunity I've got in front of me," Slater said.
"I probably go back to the last two years, in the finals I have been wearing a suit. I'm wearing a playing kit this time and that's what I am really enjoying and focusing on.
"I am really living in the now and not worrying about what happens next year. That will take care of itself. The decision will be made, I'm not too sure when. But it hasn't been made yet."
Slater said Storm officials, and even his teammates, had been "respectful" of his choice to not make a decision yet.
"Honestly, no one asked me about it. The club has been really respectful, everyone has been great," he said.
"Everyone really has got the blinkers on, focusing on what we have to do on Friday night. That 80-minute period, from 7.50pm, is the most important of our season.
"I'm not focusing on anything else, and neither is anyone else."
The Storm remains odds-on favourite to not just beat the Broncos at AAMI Park but to go on and win the premiership too, having finished the regular season on top of the ladder.
Bellamy has an impressive 24-9 win-loss record against the Broncos as coach, and a 21-10 record against Brisbane mentor Wayne Bennett.
Going into a ninth preliminary final under Bellamy, Slater said the preparation, which included a week's rest, had been tailored to meet the needs of the playing group, with six players in their maiden finals campaign.
The star fullback, who is looking to get to what would be his sixth grand final, felt the master coach had got things just right.
"I think we've got the balance right with a little bit of hard work and executing what we want to do on Friday night, and also resting up and making sure we are jumping out of our skin," Slater said.
"Being fresh at this time of year is extremely important and I feel like we are in that category."