Slater under pressure to ‘help everyone’
NSW fullback James Tedesco proved the difference in the State of Origin opener and Queensland coach Kevin Walters reckons another No.1 can do the same in Origin II.
It's a must win game in Sydney on Sunday for the Maroons and Walters says returning veteran Billy Slater is ready to "step up" and fix Queensland's problems.
After missing the Maroons' game one loss with a hamstring injury, Slater marked his 35th birthday on Monday by being named in an extended Queensland squad for Origin II.
Slater and prop Dylan Napa (ankle) must prove their fitness by Wednesday but Walters boldly claimed the Melbourne fullback would play his 30th Origin.
"The conversations we have had with Melbourne medical staff and Billy is that he will be right to go on Sunday," he said.
Slater's return can't come soon enough for a Queensland side trying to bounce back from a game one loss in their first year without their Big Three - ex-skipper Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston.
"I think Billy is ready to step up which is what Queensland needs from him," Walters said.
"And it will be his 30th game for Queensland which in itself is a huge milestone."
Walters did not believe Queensland had done much wrong in their 22-12 Origin I loss in Melbourne, saying it was decided by man of the match Tedesco.
He said Slater's return at fullback marshalling the troops in defence would help plug the Tedesco-exploited gaps, with 55 tackles missed by Queensland in game one.
"We didn't get things too far wrong in game one, it was just the brilliance of Tedesco; the breaks he made in the game not too many others can do," Walters said.
"So we have to be better with our defence and Billy is certainly a big part of that.
"Billy is going to help everyone."
Queensland's attack also came under question after the Maroons' Origin I tries came off a Ben Hunt kick and an 85m intercept by winger Valentine Holmes.
Walters said Slater would solve that shortfall too.
"Twelve points is not going to be enough to win an Origin game the way it is played in the modern era," he said.
"We have to get better with our attack. With Billy coming into the side, without putting too much pressure on him, I think he can help everyone with that including our halves, hooker and forward pack.
"NSW didn't have many holes. We have got a bit of work to do but I think Billy will help in a few of those areas."
Queensland will be desperate to send Slater out a winner after the veteran announced last month that he would retire from representative football after the 2018 Origin series.