Billy Slater hopes he won’t “carry on” like Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy when the rookie Queensland mentor enters the State of Origin cauldron on Wednesday night.
But Slater, who took a text from Bellamy this week, couldn’t hide from his former coach’s influence in a journey that could take him beyond the Maroons.
Having arrived in Sydney for the opening game, Slater, with former Storm and Queensland teammates Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis in camp, revealed the impact Bellamy had, and would continue to have, on the Maroons’ campaign.
“He’s been very influential … I’ve been around Craig for 20 years, you know, so if you’re around someone for long enough, you become that environment,” Slater said on Tuesday, just more than 24 hours out from his coaching debut against NSW.
“They have an influence over you and he’s been he’s been great to me, very supportive, sent me a text yesterday actually.
“I don’t anticipate carrying on like him (during the game), but stranger things have happened.”
Slater conceded he “didn’t know” whether his coaching journey would take him to clubland like Bellamy, with speculation he could be Bellamy’s replacement when, and if, the legendary Storm coach chooses to call time.
But having jumped into the coaching deep water, Slater said he’d thrown his all in to the Queensland campaign as his one and only focus.
“I‘ve never dipped my toe in in my life; it’s a start of this (coaching) for me … but just another part of my Queensland Origin story,” Slater said.
“So where it takes me, I don‘t know.
“This team has been important to me since I was a four-year-old boy … that’s the only reason I’m here.
“But we had a couple of really good sessions and that put me at ease.
“So from Saturday on I’ve been really, really comfortable, really excited.
“The players have given me a lot of belief. I suppose a part of my job is to instil belief in them, but I’ll tell you what they’ve instilled a fair bit of belief in me.”
Camera IconQueensland has a lot of belief, according to Slater. Nigel Hallett Credit: News Corp Australia
Queensland was flogged 50-6 and 26-0 to surrender the Origin shield last year, with injury, illness, ill-discipline and even ineligibility issues hampering their campaign.
It’s been relatively smooth sailing this year, so far. But Slater knows the tough moments will come, on the field, and the players’ response could tell the tale of his coaching career.
“We’ve touched on (last year) a little bit, but it’s about us playing our best football. The guys that were involved last year didn’t do that, but this is a totally new group,” he said.
“The big moments, they’ll happen, they’ll come, but they’ll never happen if you don’t do a small moment.
“So that‘s really important for the players to focus on because you know if you go ahead and chase the big moments you’ll forget about the small ones.”