Billy's happy return to NRL
It was a happy homecoming for Melbourne Storm fullback Billy Slater after a week of intense build-up, playing a pivotal role in a powerful and brutal 14-12 heart-stopping win over the Brisbane Broncos on Thursday night.
Many wondered whether it would be the comeback of the legendary Slater of old, or an older Slater in just his eighth match in the past two seasons, and his first since last year's season opener.
While the 33-year-old didn't have a direct impact on the score-line, his influence was vital in the Storm extend their undefeated start to the Telstra Premiership season.
Coming on in the 30th minute to thunderous applause, Slater provided an instant spark of energy that wore down Brisbane and ultimately led to the final knock-out blow for the winning converted try with three minutes to play.
After the match, Slater admitted a flurry of nerves and emotions before taking the field after two shoulder operations.
"When I say I was more nervous today than my debut, it's just the unknown," Slater said.
"In the last two years I've been out and the expectation leading into this game, there was a fair bit of hype and attention.
"I was just nervous not knowing. The last time I played, I finished the game and had to get (the shoulder) re-operated on.
"I don't think I've ever played and felt as happy to finish out the game. That was my main goal to get through the game and have a bit of a hit out.
"Once I got that card in my hand (to come on), the emotion hit me. That's a moment I'll remember in my career for a long time."