22 hours ago
Slater's Test fumbles may cause concern
Australian fullback Billy Slater hopes his indifferent Test debut won't cost him his place in the Queensland State of Origin side when selectors name the team for State of Origin I on Tuesday.
Slater is locked in a battle with incumbent Maroons fullback Karmichael Hunt for the opening Origin clash on May 21.
Brisbane star Hunt is finally back to full fitness after a knee injury had effectively ruled him out of the running for the Australian team.
Queensland selectors are renowned for showing faith in incumbents and Slater's performance in Friday night's 28-12 win over New Zealand at the SCG would not have been enough to secure him the gig over proven Test level performer Hunt.
While the Melbourne star was simply outstanding in defence, dragging runaway hooker Issac Luke down inches from the line in the first half, in attack he made two errors which could have proved costly to the Australians.
His first touch of the ball came in a sweeping backline play and his attempted cut-out pass to winger Greg Inglis almost ended up in the front row of the members' stand.
Then in the second half he masterfully cleaned up a Kiwi grubber but as New Zealand superstar Sonny Bill Williams started dragging him back towards goal he produced a heart-in-the-mouth moment by inexplicably hoisting the ball back towards his teammates.
The ball ended up loose on the ground but luckily for Slater a Kiwi wasn't in sight to pounce for a gifted try.
The 24-year-old Slater, who has not played for Queensland since 2005, hopes he has done enough in the opening months of the NRL season to earn a Maroons jumper when the team is announced on Tuesday.
"Obviously it would be great to play for Queensland again and hopefully I get the nod," said Slater.
"But I've got a job to do on Monday night (for Melbourne) and I will put my best foot forward there.
"I thought it was very hard for me to get into my running game (against New Zealand). I was pretty happy with my defence and I brought a bit of enthusiasm to the side so hopefully I can improve on that.
"(The in-goal pass) was just one of those things, I could see a fair few blue and maroon jerseys there and I thought I would chance my arm.
"That is the sort of thing I will learn from and next time I will probably just hold it and take the drop out.
"There was a lot of things I can improve on and take out of this game to hopefully improve my representative career."
Slater is not the only Kangaroo fighting for an Origin spot, with prop Brent Kite reportedly on thin ice with NSW selectors while the Blues have several outstanding backrow options and there's no guarantee all Test forwards Willie Mason, Paul Gallen, Ryan Hoffman and Anthony Tupou will be selected.
But Australian coach Ricky Stuart believes the Kangaroos players have no reason for concern and has endorsed his entire 17-man squad to walk straight into Origin jumpers next week.
"I can't see any of these boys not playing Origin," said Stuart.