Slater turned down Bellamy plea for one more
BILLY Slater has revealed he turned down a plea from Storm coach Craig Bellamy to extend his NRL career, rejecting one final contract because of fears he could ruin his remarkable legacy.
As he prepares for his final Storm home game in Friday night's preliminary final against Cronulla, Slater opened up about his decision to resist Bellamy's request for a Melbourne swan song in 2019.
The champion fullback plays his 318th NRL game against the Sharks in what he hopes is his penultimate match before a dream premiership farewell on Sunday week at ANZ Stadium.
But if Bellamy got his wish, the retiring Queensland Origin ace would have been wearing Storm colours alongside Cameron Smith next season.
On the eve of his fullback duel with Maroons teammate Valentine Holmes at AAMI Park, Slater spoke of his heart-to-heart with Bellamy and why he knocked back a 12-month extension.
"The truth is Craig Bellamy actually wanted me to go on," said Slater, who announced his retirement last month.
"Craig was the one bloke who hoped I would play on.
"To be honest, I feel so good at the moment that I believe, physically, I could play on in 2019.
"As I weighed up my future, I consulted a few people. Craig was one of them.
"He told me he wanted me to go around next year. Craig said you should play until you can't play no more.
"Craig played first grade himself and I guess his philosophy is that you are a long-time retired in this game.
"For a few months, I kept waiting for that little person to tap me on the shoulder and tell me I'm doing the wrong, that I shouldn't be retiring.
"I explained to Craig what I was thinking and feeling. He probably didn't look at it from my perspective, but in the end, he respected how I felt.
"Right now, I'm confident I've made the right decision."
Bellamy believes Slater, for all his seasons of magical consistency, is now in career-best form at age 35.
Statistics support that critique, with Slater having averaged 105 running metres per game this season, plus 64 tackle busts, 11 line-breaks and 14 try assists.
Eager for Slater to soldier on in 2019, the Storm had freed-up funds under the salary cap, but the Test custodian said his post-football health was a factor.
"I had this fear about getting to the point where I was worried about putting my body on the line and wasn't 100 per cent committed to being the best player I can be for the Storm," he said.
"I'm 36 next year. I could have squeezed the lemon dry but I have a very active life away from football. I have two young children and it's important I can be an active father to them.
"I didn't want to get halfway through next year and have to finish the rest of the season knowing my body might be letting me down or I was losing that commitment.
"This year was actually a bonus for me. I could have easily retired last year. I came into this season thinking it would probably be my last year and I took some time to think about my options.
"Given what I have been through the last few years with injuries, to finish the way I am going to finish, with my body healthy and still loving the game and having that will to compete, that's the best scenario."
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