Billy Slater says he’s confident he’ll be fit for round one of the NRL season.
Knee surgery, a late start to pre-season and the possibility of playing no trial games before round one.
It doesn’t sound like the ideal scenario for Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater.
But the World Cup-winning superstar is used to abbreviated pre-season campaigns.
The 30-year-old says even if he doesn’t get out on the paddock for a trial game, he’ll be ready to take on arch rivals Manly in round one at Brookvale Oval on March 8.
“The knee’s going along alright. I’ve had a couple of runs this week which is pretty much ahead of schedule,” Slater told reporters on Thursday.
Slater battled a knee injury during the World Cup but was able to give a sensational two-try performance in the winning side in the final against New Zealand last November in Manchester, England.
“I’m still pencilled in for round one,” Slater said.
And he added that a late pre-season start is nothing new.
“Probably in the last six years that has been that case. We’ve had short pre-seasons and come back in January,” he said.
“Even though we start the season a little bit under done, you need to do it.
“The season is that long and with the Origin period in the middle of the year, you can get a little bit stale and get flat.
“It’s important that we do have that break and freshen right up.
“We’ve got a trial up in Brisbane against the Bulldogs two weeks before the season starts. If I’m okay I’ll put my hand up for probably half a game there.
“But I’m not too worried about that. If I need that extra fortnight to really make sure my knee’s okay for round one, I will.”
Slater says playing in round one is always a major goal during pre-season, but the motivation is particularly strong against the Sea Eagles.
“We’ve had a great history with Manly, played a few grand finals against each other and some big preliminary finals as well,” he said.
“There’s a great rivalry there and one that we respect their side and I’m sure they respect us.
“It’s always a physical and tough game against Manly so you always want to be a part of those ones.”
The Storm have pushed back the starting time of Saturday’s trial game against the Canberra Raiders at AAMI Park from 5.30pm to 6.30pm because of forecast heatwave conditions.
The club’s family day at Gosch’s Paddock is now due to start at 2.30pm on Saturday.