Current NSW VB Blues players will never admit they’re relieved to not have to face Billy Slater in Origin I next week – but there’s nothing stopping the men who have donned the jersey before.
Queensland coach Kevin Walters’ shock non-selection of perhaps the side’s greatest-ever fullback raised eyebrows on both sides of the Tweed; James Tedesco had previously rated him as their most dangerous player, while a number of Maroons greats have also publicly disagreed with the decision. Today it was our own NSW True Blues’ turn to weigh in on the debate and Tommy Raudonikis, as usual, was straight to the point.
“I thought that was a big blue, a really big blue!” Raudonikis tells NSWRL.com.au. “He’s a great player, Billy Slater. He can turn a game very quickly and pull something out of nothing.
“I think they’re going to rue the day [they didn’t select him]. They could have played Boyd on a wing and Gagai in at centre – why didn’t they do that?”
Steve Roach was perhaps more diplomatic in offering his thoughts, but he thought Slater's omission raised more questions than answers for the Maroons.
“I wasn’t lucky enough to see Clive Churchill play, but Billy Slater’s the best fullback I’ve ever seen in my time,” Roach says. “I can understand what Queensland’s doing in trying to stick solid but I will put this to them: if they do get beat in the first game, what happens?
“I could see that it really meant something to Kevvie (Walters) yesterday when he was talking about Slater, but I do ask the question if it meant that much to him, why didn’t they put him in?
“Has he (Walters) got sole selection on the side?”
It’s impossible to write-off a champion Queensland side, of course, but without Slater the task might just be easier for the NSW VB Blues.
“Hopefully they’re getting a little bit old and weary,” Roach laughs, “but that’s only a hope. They’re a wonderful side, there’s no doubt about that.
“I’m hoping that it is time for a change in the tide.”