Undervalue Billy Slater at your peril, writes Mark Levy

It’s rare to admit that someone would make a mistake in a pressure cooker environment like the State of Origin because it could be a difference between a series win or a loss, and we all know what that means to NSW’s die-hard footy fans. And Queensland.

The Maroons enter the toughest arena of rugby league with four debutants and a rookie coach.

At his first press conference at camp, Billy Slater was asked what kind of coach he would be, and champion Fullback replied, “I still don’t know, I’m going to make the same mistakes as the players, but I will. Make them with good intentions.”

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A week later, the legendary origin of the state The Sunday Footy Show, “I still don’t know, I’m going blind … I’m doing my best.”

People south of Tweed refer to these comments for fun in Queensland that they are relying on someone who has never been a coach before and someone who is still finding his feet, just days before the kick-off.

But I reminded those same critics of the brain belief that he came together to prepare the Maroons. When Slater calls the shots, he is surrounded by former teammates and future immortals, Cameron Smith and Janathan Thurston.

Some people obviously have small memories because they are the three names that haunted NSW and helped Queensland win 12 titles and 8 consecutive series between 2006-17.

I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with Billy Slater every Monday night on the 2GB Wide World of Sports radio show, and if you think he’s not working, you’re in for a rude shock.

The Queensland coach is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met and has become one of the best analysts in the game, which should come as no surprise when you think of his remarkable career with the Melbourne Storm, for the Queensland Maroons and the Australian Kangaroos.

There is only one word to describe Billy as a player, commentator and now state of origin coach; The subtlety is that he will work harder than anyone else to succeed and that is what has made him a legend in our game.

Let’s face it, whatever the touch of a proud Queenslander turns to gold.

Yes, he had a talent as a footballer and when you talk to his former teammates they will tell you that his preparation was better than anyone else in Rugby League and nothing has changed from what I hear from Marun Camp.

His fire baptism comes on Wednesday night when Queensland enters the coach box at Acre Stadium for the first time and when he gets nervous, Billy repeatedly supports himself to get the job done. As a player.

When Ashley Klein indicates the time and the series begins, homework and preparation is done. Looking at the likes of Cam Munster, Kalin Ponga and Deli Cherry-Evans, Slater will sit at the Grandstand, which has been a carefully crafted game plan for the past nine days.

Important messages will be conveyed to the players through the coaches and Billy will have to manage the exchange, but the players will have to decide for themselves whether to win the game.

These blocks have spent more than a week learning from the top three players we’ve seen in modern camp games. Just think of the knowledge, advice and skills they have learned from the masterclass involved Slater, Smith and Thurston.

The Queenslanders grew up watching these blocks dominate the Origin Arena and are now being trained by their childhood heroes – what a buzz.

Former Australian captain Boyd Cordner recently told the 2GB’s ongoing call team, “When I was playing for the Kangaroos with Billy Slater, I saw him lead the team through video-sessions and you thought he was the coach.”

Does it sound like someone who will find his feet up to the origin?

Rugby League voice, Ray Warren, famously declared “Billy Slater tried a great origin” when champion Fullback created the chip-and-chase in 2004 and could help guide the Queenslanders to a series if the player becomes coach. Winning this year, it will achieve “a great” key.

Let me know your thoughts via an email on the WWOS radio show by clicking this link; https://form.jotform.co/70601482897867

Wide World of Sports Radio with Mark Levy and co-hosts Billy Slater (Monday), Paul Galen (Tuesday) and Brad Fitler (Wednesday) on 2GB 873am from 6pm AEDT.

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