There’s not many perfect gigs in the world. Just about everyone could improve their lot in life professionally, whether that be their work/life balance, the amount of satisfaction they derive from their job or the amount they take home as compensation for giving up time to someone else.
Even rugby league players, who have one of the best gigs going, are currently in a pay dispute, which suggests that even when you get your dream job, the only thing you’ve wanted to do since you were small, you’re still not entirely satisfied.
If there’s one guy who does have the perfect job, however, it might be Billy Slater.
The Queensland boss is a freelancer, paid to indulge his twin passions of rugby league and horses, balancing time between media work, his thoroughbred breeding business and, of course, coaching the Maroons.
He gets side gigs through the racing industry and through his history in rugby league, as well as a fitness app. On top of that, he can devote time to philanthropy, helping out at Melbourne Storm and, of course, his family.
Given what we know about Slater the bloke, he’s basically combined the things he liked doing anyway with getting paid a shedload of cash, which has to be the dream.
It’s why he’s consistently knocked back chat about him becoming an NRL coach. Why would he give up the best job in the world? He gets paid well, can balance his life however he likes and gets maximal satisfaction from stuffing NSW regularly and his other pursuits.
It’s why he wasn’t keen on the opportunity to take over from Craig Bellamy when he leaves the Storm, and why he won’t consider his job done after leading Queensland to consecutive Origin victories.
“I really enjoy my life at the moment,” he told his Channel 9 podcast recently. “I’ve got a good balance to it.
“The Melbourne Storm mean a lot to me. I’ve spent half my life at that club, and I’m still there now as a part-time coach, still contributing to the club. At the moment it’s a no. I don’t see myself as an NRL coach.”
His teammates agree. “I don’t think he has the desire, in the short (term) to be an NRL head coach,” said Cameron Smith.
“I think he’s enjoying his role at the moment, coaching three games for Queensland. He’s obviously got a very good job with Channel Nine commentating, and he’s also got his horse breeding business.”
It’s worth thinking about given the ongoing chat at the Storm. Being an NRL coach – even an full-time assistant, which Slater is not – is only for the truly committed.
While you get the benefit of doing all the footy stuff that players love – not just the playing, but also the camaraderie, the competitiveness and the winning – but without the downside of getting whacked around every weekend.
For that, however, you give up every waking moment of your time. Players are actively incentivised to switch off between sessions, which is why so many players love golf.
If you want to know how much downtime players get, go watch Chad Townsend’s Youtube channel: it’s a lot of content about not a lot.
The coaches’ job, however, is never done. They’re constantly thinking, watches and cutting video, sitting in meetings and dealing with players, their agents, the higher-ups and the media.
Billy currently gets to do all the Queensland stuff he wants, but without the round-the-clock stress.
When he says that he watches every Queenslander in the comp, that’s believable, because eight games a week isn’t a stretch and plenty of footy fans do it without being paid to watch some of them, which Billy is.
He gets to have the good bits of being a coach for a little while, without the 24/7 stress that comes with clubland. He also doesn’t have to deal with the media all the time, except for when he’s in it, and he doesn’t have to watch reggies, or juniors, or anything that he doesn’t want to.
On top of that, Slater only has to work with the absolute best players. The great challenge many coaches face, especially those who were themselves exceptionally talented, is relating to lesser players than themselves.
This is why Trent Barrett went from one of the best assistant coaches at Penrith to a poor first grade coach and back to one of the best assistants at Parramatta.
He’s the perfect bloke to give tips to Nathan Cleary and Mitchell Moses, because he knows better than pretty much anyone about how to be a top level half, but is less suited to chatting to players 25-30 on a roster.
Queensland only have elite players, and Billy doesn’t have to chat to the fringe first graders. His messaging and motivation job is totally different.
If Slater was to take up a club gig, it would only be because of his competitive desire to do so. Working on the telly and running his horses from his farm in Melbourne might get boring, but it doesn’t seem likely.
Indeed, it is probably the Queensland job that keep that part of his character sated for now, because he gets to express it all on the highest stage in Australian sport, but only for a short part of the year.
Given the rigours of coaching in the NRL, and his current situation, it would be bonkers for Slater to swap that for a club job. He can also look across the TV sofa and see what is possible.
Brad Fittler also won his first two series as an Origin coach, but has lost two since either side of a third victory in 2021. His job is now on the line and few would complain were he not in post in 2024.
At Melbourne, Billy could expect that every week. Whoever follows as Storm coach is taking on the NRL’s biggest challenge, because nobody will be able to top what Bellamy has done.
Slater’s kids are coming into their teenage years and, when they are old and out of the house, it might be time to dip the toe back into the NRL on a more engaged basis. For now, sticking with the part-time Queensland gig is the biggest no-brainer in rugby league.