Storm coach Craig Bellamy admits he's surprised by how well Billy Slater has come back from two season-ending shoulder surgeries following the star fullback's two-try haul in the 34-22 win over the Dragons on Sunday afternoon.
Having missed out on what would have been a fairytale recall to the Kangaroos side earlier in the week, Slater produced his best game of the season with two tries, a couple of assists and an incredible try-saving tackle on Tim Lafai that he had no right to make.
Bellamy revealed he had spoken to Slater over a cup of coffee a few days before the Dragons game to tell him how well he'd come back to rugby league, but didn't divulge to the 33-year-old the fears he held about how he would return after two injury-plagued years away from the game.
"I thought [with] the break he had at his age it could have gone either way," Bellamy said.
"It might have helped freshen him up and come back fresh, but that long out of the game – and at that age – it could have gone the other way and the game could have gone past him a bit.
"I never said that to him but that's what I was thinking.
"The thing that has stuck with me is that he still seems to be as sharp as he was. He has worked remarkably hard to get back to where he's got to. If he didn't work as hard as he has, the second option is the one that probably would have gone down.
"The amount of work that he's put in, he's getting reward for it and we're getting reward for it now."