Slater responds to grand final boos
THE boos for Billy Slater throughout the NRL grand final have been taken as a sign of respect by the retiring Melbourne fullback.
Storm captain Cameron Smith did not hide his displeasure at ANZ Stadium fans who jeered Slater in his final game after Melbourne's 21-6 loss to Sydney Roosters, saying the 35-year-old deserved more respect.
But the man himself took it as a compliment.
"To be honest they probably do respect me, that's probably why they do it," he said.
"I am playing against their team. They probably see me as a threat. That is what sport is about, you create a thick skin in this game. I am not the only player who has been booed." Slater is considered the game's greatest fullback but he was clearly not the most popular after controversially escaping a shoulder charge ban to draw thecurtain on his 16-season career in the grand final.
The former Test No.1 was jeered every time he touched the ball, even copping them before he even got onto the field.
Boos echoed around ANZ Stadium when Slater's name was mentioned in the list of NRL 2018 retirees honoured pre-match and received another serve when footage of him warming up in the dressing room lit up the venue's big screen. Asked if the crowd were disrespectful, Smith said: "I don't think there is any other way to say that.
"He's only ever been someone good for the game, I think he deserved a bit more respect than that." There was no respite for Slater, whose post-match TV interview was almost drowned out by boos as he tried to collect his thoughts after the shattering loss.
Slater kept his composure, almost laughing at the crowd reaction as he was interviewed by Andrew Johns.
"I come to expect to be booed at this stadium to be honest," Slater said afterwards.
"That's the way it goes. They (Roosters) are pretty passionate about their team. That sort of stuff doesn't affect me any more." Unlike the crowd, Smith savouredhis final time with his former club, Queensland and Kangaroos teammate Slater.
"There have been a couple of moments this week (where I) was taking time to realise it is the last time I am here with Billy," he said.
"I am very grateful I got the opportunity to play my entire career with a person like Billy.
"That was the closing chapter. In the years we have spent together the good memories far outweigh the bad."