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Billy Slater will do almost anything to play Test football for Australia

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To understand how much Test football means to Billy Slater, you have to know that he spent a week in London before last year's World Cup semi-final and barely stepped outside the Australian team hotel.

Or you have to have witnessed the two weeks in which he spent nearly every waking hour hooked up to an ice machine or receiving treatment just to give himself any hope of playing in the final after suffering a knee injury that later required surgery when he returned to Melbourne.

Or you have to have been on the receiving end of a tearful bear hug as the star fullback prepared to run out onto Old Trafford for the tournament decider against New Zealand.

Or you have to have seen his emotional attempts to give Kangaroos physiotherapist Tony Ayoub his World Cup winners medal after starring in Australia's 34-2 triumph over the Kiwis.

"He nearly squeezed the life out of me when he gave me a hug before the game," Ayoub recalled in the lead up to Friday night's Test against the Kiwis at Allianz Stadium. "I have been around Billy since 2007 and he has never done that before.

"To see the joy on his face was an accolade enough and when he gave me the medal at the end of the game, that was overwhelming. I couldn't accept it. He was the one who played the game and he is an ultimate professional from the time he finishes one game to the next game.


"He wouldn't take no for an answer so when he walked away I put it back in his bag and just told him later, and he genuinely tried to give it to me again. In terms of the severity of the injury and the amount of time we had, that has probably given me the most satisfaction of any player I have worked with."

Slater, too, admits he probably felt greater satisfaction than he has after almost any other game in his illustrious 12-year career.

"I think in terms of overcoming an obstacle, getting myself out on the field and performing the way we did, that was certainly something special," Slater said.

"I don't know if it was the best game I have ever played, but it is such a huge occasion to play in front of a big crowd at Old Trafford and to get through that with my injury certainly makes it one of the top five games of my career that I will look back on."

As players withdraw or are pulled out of teams for this weekend's representative matches by their clubs, those in the Australian camp still marvel at Slater's efforts to play in the World Cup final.

"He has had some big matches during his career, where he has come up with some huge plays, but for the effort that he made just to get his knee right for that game and to play the way he did, that was probably his best ever performance," Kangaroos skipper Cameron Smith said.

Ayoub said the initial diagnosis after Slater was forced from the field during the quarter-final against the US in north Wales was that his tournament was over and the swelling in his knee the following day was "massive".

"Billy is such a professional and people probably don't realise how tough he is," Ayoub said. "We started treatment as soon as we got back to the hotel and Nate Myles had bought a Game Ready machine so Billy was on that nearly every hour on the hour until he would fall asleep and we would be at it again from about 8am every day."

After missing the pre-season while he recovered from surgery, Slater is only now starting to reach full fitness, but he insists he was never concerned about speculation Test selectors may overlook him for Greg Inglis at fullback.

"I am playing for my country and I will do anything I can to do that," Slater said.