Billy Slater often sat in the coach’s box during his injury lay-off. Picture: Colleen Petch
Billy Slater often sat in the coach’s box during his injury lay-off. Picture: Colleen Petch

Bellamy: my unbreakable bond with Billy and Hoffy

WHAT you see on the field with Billy Slater and Ryan Hoffman is special.

However, only a few of us get to see the work that goes on behind the scenes.

You might think Billy's lucky because he's a great player, won premierships, played 31 Origins and 30 Test matches.

Ryan's played more than 300 games, won two premierships, represented the Blues and Kangaroos.

Whatever they've got, I can tell you now, they've earned.

To see what Billy went through to get back to footy, at times it was heartbreaking. At times it was simply inspirational seeing him put in the work without any guarantee the shoulder was going to be good enough to return to playing.

What he went through physically but even more so mentally, that was probably the hardest part.

I knew he was mentally strong and I knew he was ultra-competitive but he went to levels that would test anyone.

To his credit, whenever he has had to do something it's always been his way to do it, the best he can, and the hardest he can, and go from there.

Billy Slater on his way to his spectacular kick-and-chase try. Picture: Michael Ross
Billy Slater on his way to his spectacular kick-and-chase try. Picture: Michael Ross

We all remember that Origin try.

And forget he was dropped 12 months later.

He had to wait three years to get back in that Queensland team.

That was a tough period.

To have the fight and will to keep working hard to get back in there, and be a major part of what Queensland did, that just goes to show how competitive and how important performance is to him.

He knew if he didn't work hard, for the Storm, he wasn't going to get back in that Maroons side.

He probably had to rethink some of his doings on the field and curb his aggression.

Having said that, that's not easy, either, because he was getting targeted, every time he played there was people ripping into him left, right and centre.

Hard work and consistency brings success.

Billy Slater and Ryan Hoffman sharing an ice bath at Olympic Park. Picture: Herald Sun
Billy Slater and Ryan Hoffman sharing an ice bath at Olympic Park. Picture: Herald Sun

Billy and Ryan took on board the hard work mentality as 18, 19-year-olds, when I first started coaching them, and have always been very consistent with that.

To their credit, they kept the hunger to keep playing at such a high level, I'm rapt for them.

I'm not quite sure how many more people wouldn't be playing rugby league, especially in Victoria, if it wasn't for Billy Slater.

Everyone loves watching him play, obviously with Hoffy as well, the sort of footy he's played and how consistent he's been, they've been wonderful for our club.

Craig Bellamy getting his point across during a trial match to first-year fullback Billy Slater. Picture: Colleen Petch
Craig Bellamy getting his point across during a trial match to first-year fullback Billy Slater. Picture: Colleen Petch

We probably thought we had something special with Billy after his debut.

He turned the game, we were down 22-0 and he scored a try from about half way, there wouldn't have been too many in the game that could score that try.

The signs were there before that day.

I wouldn't have guessed he'd go to the heights he has, but he just wanted to be around the footy, all the time.

You don't see a whole heap of players who have that want, usually they might be on the footy a bit and then rest a bit.

Billy wanted to be on the footy, probably there was a couple of errors because of it, but you'd rather have that and try and pull them back than get the whip out on them.

Ryan Hoffman is presented with the match ball after his last home-and-away game. Picture: Michael Dodge
Ryan Hoffman is presented with the match ball after his last home-and-away game. Picture: Michael Dodge

Retirement.

You know it's coming, but it still brings you back to reality when it actually does happen.

It's getting closer for Billy and Ryan.

We want to send them out, hopefully, on a good note.

It's important for us as team, even if they weren't retiring, that we do as well as we possibly can.

I'm just so grateful that I was a small part of their journey.

It's been a long journey and like with all walks of life there have been ups and downs.

Certainly with these guys, there have been a lot more ups than downs.

The bonds they have built at the Storm will never be broken.