This Saturday is a special day for the Melbourne Storm. Not only are the boys taking on the 2003 Premiers, the Penrith Panthers at Olympic Park. But two of the Storm�s star players are celebrating their 22nd birthdays, Queensland State-Of-Origin pair Billy Slater and Cameron Smith.
Both players will be in action tonight for Game II of the State-Of-Origin Series at Telstra Stadium in Sydney, a venue no Queensland team has ever won at. However, if Slater and Smith have anything to do with it, that statistic may be blown out of the water tonight.
Slater has made his mark on recent State-Of-Origin games with tries that will be played over and over again for very different reasons.
During Game II at Suncorp Stadium during the 2004 Series, Slater scored one of the great tries in the history of State-Of-Origin. Picking up the ball up forty metres out after a kick by Darren Lockyer, Slater began his downhill skier impersonation, swerving left and right, turning the defence inside out. He then kicked over the defence, regathered and scored a try that will go down in Maroon folklore.
In Game I this year, Slater scored another try that will be spoken about for different reasons. Lockyer teamed with Slater again, firing off a pass that Slater contentiously �knocked on� with his knees. Ty Williams gathered and scored the try to put the Maroons up 8-0. Replays were inconclusive as to whether Slater touched it with his hands, and the replay referee awarded the try.
Cameron Smith is a classy hooker who is already being touted as a future club captain. He has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence in the NRL after coming in to replace former Storm star Richard Swain in 2003. He quickly established himself in the starting side and then made a stunning debut for Queensland in the third game of the State-of-Origin series in 2003. A tireless worker, Cameron averages over 30 tackles a game, but he is hardly one-dimensional. He has a great kicking game and provides outstanding service out of dummy half.
Whatever happens tonight, no doubt Slater and Smith will play big parts for both the Maroons and the Storm for years to come.