Storm captain: Retiring rugby league legend Slater ‘deserved more respect’ than boos in final game

MELBOURNE STORM CAPTAIN Cameron Smith insisted Billy Slater “deserved more respect” in the last match of his career having been booed at the NRL Grand Final.

Slater brought the curtain down on his illustrious career but was unable to finish on a high note as Sydney Roosters registered a 21-6 victory at ANZ Stadium.

It looked like the 35-year-old would not even feature in the game having been charged with a shoulder charge during the Storm’s Preliminary Final win, but he was controversially cleared to play in Sydney following a hearing.

Slater was jeered by the crowd when he took a first high ball and the Australian great produced a below-par performance as the Roosters ended a five-year wait for a title.

Smith, who was not forthcoming on his own future after the match, expressed disappointment at the reception Slater received.

“I don’t think there’s really any other way to say that,” the 35-year-old said at a press conference.

“[Slater] has only ever been someone, or something, good for our game. I think he deserved a bit more respect than that.

“Billy and I have shared a lot together in our lives – I am just so grateful I had the opportunity to play my entire career with a person like Billy.”

Slater conceded a defeat on the grandest stage was not the way he wished to sign off, but added he was appreciative of what he had learned in the game.

“It’s not how we planned it but that’s the footy,” he told Nine Network. 

“They just got out to a big lead. We tried our best but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

“I’m really grateful for the career I’ve had, the friends I’ve made. The game has given me so many things, it’s taught me selflessness, self-respect. I appreciate everything everyone has done for me.

“We just couldn’t handle their big guys at the start of the first half and it snowballed their way.”

– Omni

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