Billy Slater of the Storm runs with the ball after breaking free from the defence during the round four NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium on March 29, 2013 in Brisbane, Australia.
Billy Slater of the Storm runs with the ball after breaking free from the defence during the round four NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium on March 29, 2013 in Brisbane, Australia. Bradley Kanaris / Getty Images

Billy 'The Kid' shows he's catching up to Lewis 'The King'

THERE I was on Good Friday night, raving on about Billy Slater and his almost-hypnotic ability to be in the right place at the right time.

"The bloke is a dead-set freak," I ranted.

"But Wally could do that," quipped my long-suffering wife who has had to endure 40-plus years of force-fed footy.

And she was right, King Wally (Lewis) could pull off the plays Slater conquers, but not at the same phenomenal speed.

Wally Lewis is the best player I have seen.

Andrew Johns comes a close second behind a bunch of other brilliant yesteryear exponents of our great game, including Bob Fulton, Graeme Langlands, Reg Gasnier, Johnny Raper, Alfie Langer, Laurie Daley, Arthur Beetson, Brad Fittler, Mal Meninga and Darren Lockyer.

But the more I see of today's players, who have the advantage of full-time professional training, coaching, specialist care and supplements - not, hopefully, performance enhancing - the more I think a guy like Billy Slater might one day jump to the top of that imposing list.

Sure Lewis was freakish.

He had the vision of Cooper Cronk, the cunning of Cameron Smith and that sixth sense - like Slater - to turn up in the right place and the right time.

His kicking game was also lethal, and his at-times brutal defence was one string to his bow the Storm trio cannot boast.

But what Lewis lacked was the dazzling speed of Slater.

Wally would have been the bloke throwing the inside pass that put Billy the Kid on his 60-metre uninterrupted run to the line last Friday night.

And while Lewis was the master at scoring from dummy half, he never had the zip to scarper to the grubber from Smith that gave Slater the second of his three tries against the Broncos.

Then there's his ability to sky scrape, as he did for his third try. Maybe it's the AFL influence of Melbourne, but among a horde of jumping jack fullbacks, Slater simply does it the best - even if he sometimes does throw an errant foot.

Apart from his hat-trick of tries and man-of-the-match award, Slater also reached two other milestones on Good Friday.

He became the first player in the game to make 200 line breaks (although I doubt they were counted when Clive Churchill was playing) and his 144th try placed him among the top 10 of all time.

But I'm going to put my head right on the chopping bloke here and administer one more accolade. I'm prepared to say that is the best game I have seen him play.

And, in my former days with Rugby League Week, I'd have rated him a perfect 10.

It's now official - the Kid is coming to get the King.



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