Why Broncos never landed Billy
RETIRING Maroons champion Billy Slater has revealed the presence of Darren Lockyer at the Broncos was a decisive factor in his decision to knock back Wayne Bennett and stay loyal to Melbourne.
Slater will celebrate one of the highpoints of his decorated career when he makes his Queensland captaincy debut in his 31st and final Origin match in Game Three this Wednesday night.
When Slater leads Queensland onto Suncorp Stadium, it will be the ultimate coronation for a fullback champion who has scored 187 NRL tries in a remarkable 310-game career with the Storm.
But there was a time when Slater had the chance to become a Bronco.
Twelve months before his Storm debut in 2003, Slater was offered a two-year, $80,000 contract by the Broncos to be mentored by Bennett at Queensland's flagship NRL club.
At the time, Slater was an unknown 19-year-old who had scored a staggering 34 tries for Melbourne's then feeder club Norths Devils, who had placed the teenager flyer in their Colts side.
Brisbane's offer was doubled that offered by the Storm. Bennett even held a face-to-face meeting with Slater.
But the man who would become Queensland's skipper opted for Melbourne, believing he would never break into a Broncos backline featuring fullback Lockyer, halfback Allan Langer and Origin duo Lote Tuqiri and Brent Tate.
"I could have played for the Broncos," said Slater ahead of his emotional Origin III finale.
"I had a one-year deal with Melbourne and 12 months later I came off contract and it was the only time in my career that I had a decision to make.
"Melbourne offered me a contract for two years and the Broncos also offered me a two-year deal.
"Actually, the Broncos contract was double what Melbourne offered. The Storm offered me $20,000 a year and Brisbane offered $40,000 a year.
"Just about every league kid in Queensland dreams of playing for the Broncos and I had a meeting with Wayne, but there were two main considerations.
"The Broncos basically had the Queensland backline, they had Tuqiri and Chris Walker and Darren Lockyer was the fullback. I thought my chance of playing first grade there was zero.
"The other thing was what Melbourne did for me. They were the only club who initially showed interest in me and in the end, I felt an obligation to stay."
Slater will equal 31-game Origin legend Wally 'The King' Lewis when he runs out this Wednesday night and admits he is blown away by the timing of his elevation to the Maroons captaincy.
"I never in my wildest dreams thought I would lead the Maroons," he said.
"Just the rich history of Queensland rugby league and the calibre of the 13 other Origin captains make this occasion very humbling.
"I'm excited, but I just feel overwhelmingly grateful and I give the Queensland fans some lasting memories this Wednesday night."
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