Billy Slater says the threat of losing his place as Australia’s No.1 fullback does provide him with some extra motivation to perform in Friday’s rugby league Test against New Zealand.
Slater has had an unusually poor and error-ridden start to the NRL season for Melbourne, who are languishing in 10th on the ladder with four wins from eight games.
Meanwhile, his chief rival for the Kangaroos and Queensland State of Origin custodian role, Greg Inglis, has enjoyed a stellar first part of the year at South Sydney – exemplified by his incredible 90-metre solo try against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium last Friday.
While there are suggestions an out-of-sorts Slater may soon have to surrender his No.1 jersey to Inglis, the 30-year-old is paying little attention to such talk.
“I don’t look at it too much. I try and focus on my own game and what I can do for the team,” Slater said on Tuesday.
“I’ve felt people coming (at me for the No.1 jersey) my whole career, it’s not just Greg.
“Jarryd Hayne’s playing some great football, Matt Bowen’s always been there. Ben Barba’s come on the scene and Anthony Milford’s playing some great football at fullback.
“It seems to be a spot where everyone’s got to be in form. I just so happen to be the current fullback.
“It’s not my job to talk about that sort of stuff, it’s my job to go out and perform on Friday.”
Asked whether the outside pressure to perform was good for him, Slater said: “I suppose it pushes you along subconsciously. Consciously, you’re just about measuring yourself against your own performances.
“But yeah I suppose subconsciously it’s there.”
Inglis was in no doubt Slater remained Australia’s best fullback despite his recent form.
“Billy Slater, even though he’s not at his best at the moment, he can quickly turn it around,” the Rabbitohs star said.
“I know Bill and he’s a player you need in your side.
“He is the number one choice fullback, there’s no doubt about it.
“We’ll just see in years to come – how we go as we get older.”
The 27-year-old Inglis had no qualms about returning to the centres, as long as it meant he still could represent the Kangaroos.
“The only thing is trying to get my hands on the ball a bit more because I’m used to it at club level.
“I’ve just got to work it out with the coach, work it out with the halves and our players a little bit more.
“I think it’s just like riding a bicycle. Even though you do a lot of running at fullback, there’s still a lot of effort that goes into the defensive line.”