Win or lose Friday night’s NRL preliminary final against Cronulla, Billy Slater has left an indelible mark in Melbourne.
Ahead of his last-ever game at AAMI Park, and dependent on the result possibly his final NRL match before retirement, Slater has been honoured with a giant mural painted on a wall just a stone’s throw from the ground.
The 35-year-old, who has spent almost half his life at the Storm, said he was humbled to have a mural commissioned by the club and painted by Sid Tapia.
“It’s an iconic precinct here in Richmond with AAMI Park over the road and the MCG – it’s a great area for sport so to have my mug on the wall is pretty humbling,” Slater said on Tuesday.
The mural is an image from last year’s grand final of Slater holding up the premiership trophy, wearing the Clive Churchill medal for best on ground.
The fairytale would be to bow out repeating the feat, with the team coming first for the Test and Queensland fullback.
“The beauty of my situation is that the position that we’re in is far bigger than myself,” Slater said.
“If we play well we’ll give ourselves the chance to play in a grand final and that’s what we’ve all been working really hard for the last 11 months.
“It’s a huge occasion – it’s not about me the position we’re in and what we’ve got in front of us if we play well.
“We’re working really hard to make it a special moment, in our preparation,” Slater said of the team.
“Obviously the result determines whether Friday night is my last-ever game or we go on to play in a grand final.
“Either way it’s my last game in Melbourne so it’s pretty special.”
Slater said he wasn’t getting caught up in the sentimentality of his last hurrah at AAMI Park.
“I will keep everything as normal as possible,” he said.
“In the back of my mind I understand the position I’m in and the repercussions of winning or losing but my main focus is to play well and that’s all I care about.”