For Windback Wednesday we’re taking you back to a vision you’ve probably seen a thousand times – but one that it’s impossible to tire of…well, if you’re a Queenslander, anyway.
No matter what your allegiance, though, the brilliance of Billy Slater’s iconic try for Queensland during the 2004 Origin series cannot be denied. Darren Lockyer’s deft grubber; the timing of Slater’s run; his change of direction and perfect chip over Anthony Minichiello; and the young Storm star’s searing pace to win the race to the ball.
What is often overlooked is the game context in which the try was scored.
Slater, picked as a winger (Penrith’s Rhys Wesser was at fullback), made his debut in the series opener, which NSW won 9-8 in a golden point classic. He scored Queensland’s first try of game two at Suncorp Stadium to level the scores at 6-all, but at 12-10 in arrears as the match entered the final quarter, the Maroons’ series hopes were hanging by a thread.
The Innisfail flyer, just two days short of his 21st birthday, then etched his name into Origin folklore in the 63rd minute, giving Queensland the impetus to prevail 22-18. The Blues went on to win the decider easily
It wasn’t an easy ride to rep stardom for Slater, however. After claiming his preferred fullback spot for the 2005 series opener, he was dropped in favour of Matt Bowen for the decider. Slater was subsequently leapfrogged in the pecking order by Karmichael Hunt, and did not make his Test debut or return to the Maroons’ fold until 2008.
But he hasn’t looked back since then, equalling Tim Brasher as Origin’s most-capped fullback in 2014, while he sits behind only the Immortal Clive Churchill for most Tests at fullback for Australia.
After missing the 2015-16 series with shoulder injuries, the brilliant custodian is on the cusp of a remarkable re-call to the Maroons’ line-up for the 2017 series opener, for what would be his 28th Origin appearance.