Slater slip-up no worry for Queensland captain
QUEENSLAND captain Cameron Smith says Billy Slater is an almost certain starter for tomorrow night's Origin decider after revealing the fullback's recovery from a rolled ankle is progressing better than expected.
Smith saw Slater yesterday morning and said the Maroons ace had already tested his right leg, completing a few hops on his suspect leg to give his ankle a workout.
"He told me he's done a few hops on his foot, so I think he'll be right to play,” Smith said.
"I'm not a doctor or a physio but he looked good to me.
"I think he'll be starting on Wednesday.”
So confident is Queensland that Smith and coach Kevin Walters have not discussed a contingency plan in case Slater is unavailable.
"Given the way Bill's pulled up this morning, I think it all looks extremely positive for him to be there and for us to go out as the 17 we named,” Smith said.
Slater rolled his ankle in a clash with Cronulla before the second Origin game and recovered well but aggravated the problem on Sunday at Maroons training.
"It was just an unfortunate mishap really. He wasn't around anyone.
"He was moving back in the defensive line,” Smith
"I was standing right behind him actually, I wasn't taking part in that particular drill and he just sort of went over on his own foot.
"He put a bit of a scare through the camp but seeing how good it's pulled up this morning, I think he's very positive about being there on Wednesday.”
Smith said it would not be an issue if Slater had to miss today's captain's run at Suncorp Stadium if it meant he was fit for the game.
"I'd much prefer him to be ready to go Wednesday night than push him into a captain's run and have him pull up sore again,” Smith said.
"We don't particularly need him there for the captain's run. We've done our main sessions now, so if we're not ready by the captain's run we're going to be struggling a bit.
"But we've trained well all week. So for Bill to not take part in that captain's run is not going to worry us at all.”
While the sceptics derided the "injury crisis” that seems to hit every Queensland camp, there's no doubt the 34-year-old sent a scare through the team.
Slater's ability to play tomorrow night will avoid another blow to a Maroons outfit already without Johnathan Thurston and Darius Boyd.
Boyd played at fullback in the series opener and would be the natural replacement for Slater if fit.
Instead, Walters is likely to pitch debutant Cameron Munster into the fullback position if Slater fails to recover.
Queensland has a wealth of options at No.1, with Munster and Cronulla fullback Valentine Holmes in the squad.
Holmes said he would not knock back Walters if asked to take on fullback duties but expected Slater to recover fully.
"The coach will give him up until kick-off to see if he's right,” Holmes said.
"I'm sure he'll be all right. He walked off so that's a good sign and he'll do all the recovery, ice it up, rest it.”
Holmes said he would "not be first pick” at fullback but would not turn Walters down if asked to play
"It would be anyone's dream to play No. 1 if you're a fullback so it's definitely something that I'd love to play in (eventually).”