Being an elite-level fullback in the toughest rugby league competition in the world, the NRL is about much more than running fast, catching bombs and hanging off the end of backlines for those glory tries.
One man who would know is Melbourne Storm, Queensland Maroons and Australian Kangaroos’ number-one, Billy Slater. The 34-year-old possible future Immortal, not only made a successful return from a second devastating long-term shoulder injury this year, he also made sure he redeveloped that vital chemistry and cohesion required among team-mates at the elite level of the game.
“My performance has a lot to do with preparation with team-mates,” said Slater. “I do a lot of work with my wingers, making sure we’re in position. I demand them to be; I demand myself to be. If we’re doing that, we’re putting a lot of pressure on the kickers.
“The more times we can get to the ball on the full or as early as possible, it gives our team the best opportunity to start the set well. Especially in State of Origin where the majority of the starts of sets come from kick returns. It’s just an integral part of the game.
Now, the legendary Cameron Smith might be the official team captain of the Melbourne Storm, but there’s no denying that the man who leads from the back half of the field, especially when the going gets tough late in the game, is Billy Slater.
“I’m in charge of the defence when I’m back there,” he said. “You have to feel like you’re in charge. If you don’t, you’re probably not going to be talking to your players with the authority you need to. They’re really tired and they’re doing all the work in the middle. They need that firm direction to make sure they’re getting in the right position.
“They’re the things I really focus on; making sure I’m getting my defensive line in the right spot and chiming in to the defensive line when I need to. That’s probably the toughest role as a fullback, because you need to be able to work hard and get used to not getting a lot of reward.”