Melbourne Storm star Billy Slater has confirmed he will retire from the NRL at the end of the season.
Reports emerged yesterday the 35-year-old had decided to call it quits and he spoke to the media about his decision in Melbourne this afternoon.
The representative fullback will end his career as a one-club player and thanked his teammates, coaches, fans, sponsors and family for making his time in rugby league so special.
The emotion of the occasion overwhelmed Slater when he started to thank Storm mentor Craig Bellamy. He stopped talking and had to compose himself as he fought back the tears while paying tribute to the man who's helped shape his career.
"Thanks for believing in me," Slater said. "You taught me the harder you work the luckier you get and I have no doubt that my career would not have been as successful or consistent if you didn't instil that work ethic in me."
Slater made special mention of Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith for having the biggest influence on his rugby league journey before turning his attention to his family.
He thanked his dad for instilling in him a passion for rugby league and his mother for "washing the jerseys" and being his personal cheer squad on the sidelines. He also thanked his wife for helping him through the tough times, be it because of injury or selection disappointments, and spoke of his pride in being able to share his most rewarding moments with his two children.
"To be in the middle of a grand final and have your son and daughter give you a high five as they deliver the kicking tee, that's a special moment I'll remember together," Slater said.
Melbourne CEO Dave Donaghy and Bellamy also had plenty of kind words to say about the retiring superstar
"It's a sad day in one way, without a doubt," Bellamy said. "Having said that, we should be celebrating what's been an unbelievable career. Sixteen years he's been in Melbourne and it's probably not talked about a whole heap but there wouldn't be as man kids playing rugby league in Victoria if it weren't for Billy Slater.
"The one thing I really admire about Bill, it's no secret — he's very talented athletically but what he's done through hard work, perseverance and determination, he's learnt the game.
"He's as smart a player, on and off the field, as I've ever seen. And I really admire that because he didn't just rely on his God-given talents. He taught himself a lot about our game."
Slater has an expansive trophy cabinet which contains two Clive Churchill Medals, a Dally M Medal, two NRL Grand Final trophies.
He was also a key piece in Queensland's State of Origin dominance and was a part of eight series' victories.
Slater first made his NRL debut with the Melbourne Storm all the way back in 2003 and he has amassed a record of 313 games in which time he's scored 187 tries.
Over his career he's played in 31 Origin games and 30 Tests for Australia.
The Melbourne Storm currently sit in second place on the ladder with four games remaining before the finals commence.