Billy Slater on his way to scoring a memorable try for Queensland during game two of the 2004 State of Origin series.
Billy Slater on his way to scoring a memorable try for Queensland during game two of the 2004 State of Origin series.

The man who was better than Billy

BILLY Slater is not the messiah, he's just a very, very, VERY good fullback.

"Billy the Kid'' deserves all the praise - and then some - that has come his way since announcing his retirement from representative football on Tuesday.

The bloke is a freak. A true champion. A Maroons great if ever there was one. He will be sorely missed.

But can we please pump the brakes a little on how he supposedly 'revolutionised' the way fullbacks play.

Yes, Billy's ball-playing ability makes him an extra playmaker to help the halves and hookers lucky enough to have him in their side.

Combine that with electrifying pace, toughness and a sixth sense to be in the right place at the right time and he is the full package.

No doubt.

The former trackwork jockey is a legitimate, rolled gold super (duper) star.

But he wasn't the first to change the fullback position where the criteria was once all about being rock-solid, dependable and mistake-free.

Remember a bloke called Darren Lockyer?

You know, Locky.

The bloke who used to have that gravel-like voice that sounded like "Agro' the puppet.

You know, the fella who is on the telly now.

Billy Slater is one of the great fullbacks of all time, but he didn’t revolutionise the position. Picture: AAP Image/Craig Golding
Billy Slater is one of the great fullbacks of all time, but he didn’t revolutionise the position. Picture: AAP Image/Craig Golding

How quickly people forget.

Broncos, Maroons and Kangaroos legend Lockyer played the last eight seasons of his Immortal-in-waiting career at five-eighth and did it all.

But before all his heroics in the No. 6 jumper, which started in 2004, Lockyer was fairly useful as a fullback.

How handy?

- He won the Golden Boot Award for the best player in the world in 2003.

- He won three premierships with Brisbane - 1997, 1998 and 2000.

- He won the Clive Churchill Medal for man-of-the-match in the 2000 NRL grand final.

- He captained both Queensland and Australia.

- He was Dally M fullback of the year three times - 1998, 2001 and 2002.

- He was Dally M representative player of the year in 2001.

- He won a World Cup with Australia in 2000 and Ashes series in 2001 and 2003.

- He was named at fullback in the Queensland Team of the Century in 2008

That's a career that even the best to lace up a boot can only dream about. But it was only half of his glorious tenure at the very top of the greatest game of all.

Billy Slater and Darren Lockyer were a potent duo for Queensland. Picture: Peter Wallis
Billy Slater and Darren Lockyer were a potent duo for Queensland. Picture: Peter Wallis

Do yourself a favour and YouTube the 2001 Origin series highlights. They will be dominated by Lockyer, who produced one of the finest individual efforts ever seen across three games in the history of the interstate series.

No wonder he's got a statue outside Suncorp Stadium.

The natural five-eighth was an accidental fullback too given Allan Langer and Kevin Walters were ahead of him at the Broncos in 1995 when he made his first grade debut.

He was too gifted to be left out of A-grade so Wayne Bennett wisely put him back to fullback where he flourished.

And he carved up all before him because his ball skills made him an extra playmaker. His brilliant football mind meant he was a couple of plays ahead of the game which allowed him to snuff out any trouble in defence or create mayhem with the footy in hand.

 

Darren Lockyer reached the pinnacle of the game at fullback before the second half of his career at five-eighth. Picture: David Kapernick
Darren Lockyer reached the pinnacle of the game at fullback before the second half of his career at five-eighth. Picture: David Kapernick

 

He could make teams look silly on kick returns. When he chimed into the line, he would either slice through the gap or put a teammate through a hole with a perfectly timed pass.

He could also expertly finish an attacking movement with perfect support play.

Don't underrate Lockyer's toughness either. Anybody who plays more than 350 first grade games, almost 60 Tests and 36 Origins is as hard as they come.

Does all that sound familiar?

Billy has been utterly brilliant.

But Locky was pretty legendary himself.

Don't forget it.



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