15 Feb 2011

Star fullback set to miss Storm's opening game of NRL season

5:57 am on 15 February 2011

Melbourne are preparing to start their 2011 NRL rugby league season without star fullback Billy Slater, whose recovery from shoulder surgery has been slower than expected.

Slater will miss all of the Storm's pre-season matches and coach Craig Bellamy says it's looking increasingly likely he wouldn't play in their round one clash on March the 12th against Manly.

The Test custodian had an arthroscope on the right shoulder he injured in round 21 and carried through the post-season Four Nations tournament.

Slater has resumed running but the joint hasn't progressed as quickly as expected.

Gareth Widdop, who was Slater's understudy during 2010, would be the leading candidate to wear the No.1 jersey.

However English Test representative Widdop has made it clear he wants to play five-eighth this year, replacing Brett Finch who is now playing with Wigan.

Most of the Storm's core group will return for their next trial match against Canberra at Bega on Saturday night, with the exception of Slater and fellow Test players Cooper Cronk and skipper Cam Smith.