The 2020 season may not be a year that Queensland fans want to remember, even if they play an Origin series or not.
Billy Slater makes his 31st and final Origin appearance tonight, and who better to call it than ‘The Voice’ of rugby league, Ray ‘Rabs’ Warren, who will also reach his own milestone of 90 State of Origin matches behind the microphone.
From that try in 2004, when Billy pounced on a grubber from Darren Lockyer and chipped over Anthony Minichiello to score, Rabs has seen every moment of the jockey-turned-NRL star’s stellar Origin career, and his attachment to Slater throughout this time is well known.
When speaking recently about Slater, Warren said, “I think he’s the greatest fullback I’ve ever seen.”
And this comes from a man who has seen the likes of Graeme Langlands, Keith Barnes and Graham Eadie in action.
When we talk about the greatest fullbacks, Clive Churchill sits atop the list and has his rightful place with the Immortals. Not many today saw him play, but Billy seems to be very close, both being small in stature but able to turn a game through sheer speed and brilliance.
Before last year’s grand final, Joyce Churchill said, “When I go and see Billy play, I think it’s Clive.”
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Another testament to Slater is his attitude, especially in recent years, battling a shoulder injury for over 18 months before making a strong return the following year to earn himself a premiership and the Churchill Medal.
Now he has overcome a hamstring problem to take part in this year’s Origin series, so take the time to appreciate what he has done in the maroon jersey and the moments he has made.
Let’s see him pull off one more piece of brilliance for Queensland in front of a home crowd, and just for good measure, let’s hear one more “Billy the Kid” from Ray Warren straight into our lounge rooms.
A game-changer like Billy deserves a grand farewell, and if you haven’t seen him in the flesh for Queensland, you could do worse than getting a ticket to see him go around in maroon one last time.