Queensland captain Cameron Smith has all but confirmed Billy Slater will play in Wednesday night’s State of Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium.
And the Maroons leader has given his strongest hint yet that he believed the veteran fullback would play on in 2018.
Smith said no contingency plan was in place for Slater after the 34-year-old pulled up well from rolling his ankle at training on their Gold Coast camp on Sunday.
The veteran of 41 Origins said Slater would be given until the last minute to prove his fitness for what may be his final game for Queensland and would not be required to take part in Tuesday’s captain’s run.
Off contract Melbourne No.1 Slater is yet to confirm whether he will play on in 2018 ahead of his 29th Origin.
“I would much rather prefer him being ready for Wednesday than him being forced into a captain’s run,” Smith said of Slater.
“But I saw him this morning and he is walking around. He said he had done a few hops on the ankle – I think he will be right to play.
“He put a scare through the camp yesterday but seeing how good it has pulled up he is confident of playing on Wednesday.”
Slater and Queensland halfback Cooper Cronk are expected to make an announcement on their Origin future after Queensland attempt to seal their 11th series win in 12 years.
“Hopefully we’ll find out after this series is done where Cooper’s at for next year, Bill’s a bit different,” Smith said.
“I think he’s very keen to play on it’s just whether he feels his body’s up to it.
Slater’s injury looked set to spark a back-line reshuffle that slotted five-eighth Cameron Munster to No.1 and fellow debutant Ben Hunt from the bench to pivot.
However, Smith said Queensland coach Kevin Walters was sticking with the Maroons playing as per program on Wednesday night.
Walters on Monday echoed Smith’s confidence about Slater.
“I think he got more of a scare than anything,” Walters told Sky Sports Radio on Monday of Slater’s incident.
“It was that ankle he injured against the Sharks about a month ago and just maybe tore a bit more scar tissue off there or something.
“If he’s in some sort of doubt, yeah, we’ll have to bring someone. But I think Bill’s going to be okay to be honest.”
Walters confirmed he’d given star NRL playmakers Munster and Michael Morgan permission to rotate between five-eighth and centre during game three.
“They’ve got a licence to do that if they feel that’s necessary. But we’re comfortable with Cameron (at five-eighth),” Walters said.