Melbourne Storm star Billy Slater has been cleared to play his 300th NRL game after overcoming a shoulder injury.
The illustrious milestone was put on hold last week after a shoulder injury sustained in Melbourne's World Club Challenge win over Leeds Rhinos forced him to miss Saturday's season-opening 36-18 victory against the Canterbury Bulldogs.
But the 34-year-old full-back will become the 31st player in history to play 300 games and just the 13th for one club when reigning champions the Storm welcome Wests Tigers to AAMI Park on Saturday.
"I think it's taken me three and a half years to play 30 games in the NRL," Slater told reporters on Tuesday. "I notched up the first 270 pretty quick. That makes it that more special I suppose.
"To be honest, I never thought about the number [reaching 300]. When I first did the injury in 2015, I didn't have my sights set on 300 games. It was all about getting my shoulder right. After re-injuring it after one game, it was a long way away. It was about getting back to playing the game I love."
"It's hard to play 300 - it's harder to play one," he continued. "We've got 170,000 participants in our game every year, and there's only 500-odd who have the privilege to play at the highest level.
"It's not an easy game to crack. To go on to play 300 you need durability, resilience, persistence, and to be a little bit stubborn. I genuinely love playing rugby league and have done since I was four years old. I still enjoy competing to this day."
Having also starred for Queensland Maroons in the State of Origin and Australia, Saturday will be Slater's 360th career appearance.
Asked about retirement, Slater said: "I've always said this will be my last year, but you don't want to make a statement before you play a game.
"I didn't know what last year had in store. I felt like I can contribute to the Melbourne Storm, that's why I'm still here this year. I think that decision will be made during the season."
Storm head coach Craig Bellamy added: "Few players have been able to accomplish what Billy has in the game and that quite simply is down to how hard he works. His attitude towards and ability to embrace hard work sums him up as a player and as a person.
"From the first week he came to Melbourne to trial for a contract he has always been hungry to improve himself and help this team to be as successful as it can possibly be.
"It has been a privilege to coach him for all these years. Both our club and the competition have been lucky to see perform with such class and commitment week in and week out."
|Ederson taking goalkeeping to another level, says City hero Weaver|
|Ceferin dismisses "super league" plans as fiction|
|Rams defeat Chiefs in one of the highest scoring games in NFL history|
|Kemba Walker leads Hornets to win over Celtics|
|Gomez praises ´top player´ Van Dijk, Stones|
|Cricket Australia to maintain Smith, Warner ball tampering bans|
|Brazil´s Tite encouraged by Neymar captaincy|
|Holmes set for NFL switch after Cronulla release|
|Dier encourages English youngsters to follow Sancho´s lead|
|Southgate promises further changes to England squad|
|Jones sceptical over Pocock injury|
|Sane encouraged despite Germany´s ´annoying´ Nations League draw|
|Character got Netherlands through, says Koeman|
|Netherlands´ focus still on Euros - Van Dijk|
|Ireland will be ready for qualifiers, insists O´Neill|
|Smith undergoes successful surgery, Redskins sign Sanchez|
|Germany 2 Netherlands 2: Dramatic five-minute fightback seals Oranje progression|
|Denmark 0 Republic of Ireland 0: Thrills at a premium again in Aarhus|
|O´Brien could return for start of Six Nations|
|Cavani: Neymar and I are ´friends, brothers, team-mates´|
|Pothas named Windies interim head coach|
|LA Galaxy planning for Ibrahimovic stay|
|NFL will return to Mexico City in 2019|
|Broner vows to end Pacquiao´s career in Las Vegas|
|UEFA should punish PSG and Man City, says LaLiga chief|
|Teenage driver Floersch has ´no fear of paralysis´ after operation|
|Mancini bemoans Italy´s misfortune in front of goal|
|Sprint legend Johnson ´pretty much back to normal´ after stroke|
|Bournemouth defender Adam Smith out for three months|
|World champions France out to end 2018 on a high|
|I told him there´s no future in football! A-Rod relieved to be ignored by Mahomes|
|Dembele must focus and be more responsible - Suarez|
|Neymar could return one day – Barca chief|
|Cole backs West Ham to keep Arnautovic|
|Injury rules Bernardo Silva out of Poland clash|
|Lamar Jackson debut start ´spectacular´ - Ravens coach Harbaugh|
|Babar run out the turning point, laments Sarfraz|
|West Ham boost London Stadium capacity to 60,000|
|A great advertisement for Test cricket - Williamson revels in stunning win|
|Van Dijk one of the world´s best - Klaassen|
|Floersch had ´angel on her shoulder´ in horror crash|
|Gascoigne charged with sexual assault|
|I am going to stay at Chelsea and fight, insists Giroud|
|Hansen to make announcement on All Blacks future|
|I have reached the top by joining Chelsea - Sarri|
|Bonucci tells Italy boo boys to ´live with less envy´|
|Dramatic Pakistan collapse gives Stead first New Zealand Test win|
|Button enjoying racing for first time in years|
|Dortmund chief not planning Pulisic sale|
|Theismann: Smith leg break ´heart-wrenching´ to watch|
|Wolves defender Jonny suffers knee injury|
|Holmes to meet with Sharks amid NFL switch talk|
|LeBron made 51 points ´look easy´, says Walton|
|McGuire signs four-year deal with Cowboys|
|Bears beat Vikings to extend NFC North lead|
|Peng overcomes Davis in Houston final|
|Kerr says this has been his toughest stretch as Warriors coach|
|LeBron scores 51 in Lakers´ win, Warriors fall to Spurs|
|Win more than Djokovic? Let´s chill out – Zverev|
|Steelers´ rally highlights wild day of close, last-minute finishes|
|Modric not worried about Ballon d´Or|
|Saints pull away for blowout victory over Eagles, extend winning streak to nine|
|Martinez laments loss of control by Belgium|
|Logano claims first NASCAR Cup championship|
|Luis Enrique delighted with attitude of Spain´s squad|
|Stevens tells Celtics to get ´tougher´|
|Griezmann: Being Messi´s lieutenant played a part in rejecting Barcelona|
|Curry proud of how Warriors handled Green-Durant incident|
|Courtois: Belgium thought Nations League job was done|
|Howell ends 11-year title drought to deny record-breaking Rodgers|