The anguish over dumping Billy Slater from Queensland’s team for next week’s State of Origin opener was there for all to see in Maroons coach Kevin Walters’ quivering bottom lip.
Walters later revealed the full extent of the selectors’ distress over the veteran fullback’s snub, saying it took them months of debate to make the bold call.
Walters almost broke down explaining why they had stuck with incumbent No.1 Darius Boyd and overlooked Slater when he unveiled his team for May 31’s Origin I.
At one stage Maroons chief selector Gene Miles intervened so Walters could regain his composure.
“It was the toughest decision we’ve had to make,” 17-year selector Miles said.
Walters hinted that the debate between him and fellow selectors Miles and Darren Lockyer over Slater’s Origin return began as soon as the Melbourne No.1’s successful return from injury in NRL round three.
Slater has impressed since coming back from a second shoulder reconstruction.
But selectors still opted for Boyd, who regained career-best form after claiming the Test and Queensland No.1 jersey from an injured Slater last year.
“It took us a long time to come to that decision,” Walters said of overlooking 27-Origin veteran Slater.
“It was months and months of speaking to each other and trying to get it right.
“It’s been hard on all of us, particularly for all of us involved in the decision making around it because Billy’s been such a wonderful player for Queensland.”
Walters dismissed talk Slater’s Origin days were numbered.
“I don’t think we have seen the last of Billy Slater in a Maroons jumper,” Walters told QRL Media.
“It’s only game one and lots of things can happen over the series.
“If the opportunity came up for us to use Billy we would have no hesitation.”
Walters has invited Slater to help assist at Queensland’s Origin I camp on the Gold Coast.