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3 days ago
Having found the perfect balance between patience and pizazz, Billy Slater will make his Australian rugby league debut in familiar company.
Slater has been rewarded for his key role in Melbourne Storm's impressive start to the NRL season by being named at fullback for next month's Test against New Zealand at the SCG.
He edged out Brett Stewart for the No.1 jersey, although the Manly custodian may not have been available anyway, with a calf injury forcing him out of the NSW Country team for Friday's annual clash with NSW City in Wollongong.
Slater is one of five Storm players in the Test side, while the backline is an all-Queensland affair with the exception of St George Illawarra centre Mark Gasnier.
"They're all good players so it's an advantage to play with good players," Slater said.
"I've played with Israel (Folau) and Greg (Inglis) for a while now and they're the wingers so hopefully I can get a bit of a combination with them."
Slater has been given the all-clear by Storm club doctors after receiving an accidental poke in the eye from Johnathan Thurston in Melbourne's narrow win over North Queensland on Saturday night.
The 12-10 victory lifted the club to third on the NRL ladder with a 5-2 win-loss record.
"I think I'm improving all the time as a footballer and I always try and work on my weaknesses," said Slater.
"The last couple of weeks have been pretty good for us as a club and it's easy to play good when your club is going good and you've got good players around you.
"... (Consistency) is definitely one thing I've been working on.
"Early on in my career I'd have a good game and then I'd have a bad one.
"It's about trying to get that consistency and trying to get that balance between unpredictability and the safety for your team.
"Knowing what the right play is - and I think I've got that balance."
The clash with the Kiwis will be Slater's first match in the green and gold at any level, having missed out on national honours throughout his junior career.
"I've played for Queensland and I'm very passionate about that," he said.
"I've won a grand final and also now playing for Australia is pretty much up the top of the pyramid."