‘I’m not embarrassed’: Slater’s response to medal critics
AFTER terrorising NSW for more than a decade, Billy Slater has saved one last parting gift for his Blues rivals after Queensland's dead rubber win on Wednesday night.
In his final Origin game, the retiring Queensland fullback became the first player in a losing series team to win the Wally Lewis Medal since it started being awarded in 2004 to the player of the series.
And if you're expecting Slater to feel awkward about the decision to name him player of the series despite missing a game, you'll be sadly mistaken.
"I was not embarrassed," Slater said Thursday morning. "When you get an award like that you are naturally humbled and you are privileged to win it."
While there's no questioning the overall on-field exploits of Slater since his Origin debut in 2004, the decision to award the 35-year-old the medal left many fans and pundits scratching their heads.
Slater missed the series-opener with injury but was one of the Maroons' best in their game-two loss, and was again superb in his farewell match in game three.
He finished Wednesday night with 136 metres, three line-break assists and a try assist.
He also became just the second player, after Arthur Beetson, to captain an Origin side after his 35th birthday, having been appointed to the role following an injury to Greg Inglis.
But Slater himself almost seemed surprised at the decision, which was made by Australia selectors Mal Meninga, Laurie Daley and Darren Lockyer.
"Wow, this one's really special," Slater said after the game.
"Wally was a hero while I was growing up. To win this award for the second time will go down as one of my biggest achievements."
Former Blues captain Paul Gallen said NSW skipper Boyd Cordner was unlucky not to win the medal.
"I cant help but feel sorry for a NSW player not to win the Wally Lewis Medal. They (NSW) won the series. Someone like Boyd Cordner thoroughly deserved it," he said on Channel 9.
"He was the best forward on the field in game one.
"Cordner was man of the match in game two and I thought he played well tonight - 80 minutes in those two games. I'm a little bit disappointed for a Blues player not to win it".