Rugby League: Billy Slater nears NRL return

Billy Slater passes the ball during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session. Photo / Getty Images
Billy Slater passes the ball during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session. Photo / Getty Images

Injury-hit fullback Billy Slater will make his return from a year on the sidelines in Melbourne's NRL pre-season trial matches.

The Storm won't risk the 33-year-old in February's Auckland Nines, with a shoulder injury limiting the former Australian and Queensland star to eight games in two years.

But assistant coach Jason Ryles said Slater will return to the field for the first time since round one of 2016 in the pre-season, seemingly removing any doubt over his readiness for the opening round of the NRL season.

"(He'll) definitely be playing in our 13 v 13 trials," Ryles told Sky Sports Radio on Friday.

"It's not worth the risk sending a player of his quality to the Nines, I don't think."

Slater has been on the comeback trail since re-aggravating the shoulder issue in March last year, shutting down his entire campaign.

He managed seven games in 2015.

The 278-game veteran said in December his shoulder was not back to full strength and cast doubt on his prospects of returning to rugby league.

But Ryles said he was progressing well, having returned to full contact at training this month.

"He's training really well. He's started his contact so he's in pretty good shape at the moment. He's increasing his contact every week," he said.

"He's been back in full training for quite a while now. Hopefully he translates that into a good NRL season."

Ryles said Slater's return would allow Cameron Munster to shift into a ball- running role, with the stand-in fullback training at five-eighth in the off- season.

"There's certainly a huge bonus having Bill back and also having Cameron Munster as a bit more of a runner," he said.

- AAP

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