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It's the Slater and Hayne show

Article from: The Daily Telegraph

By Andrew Johns

September 25, 2009 12:00am

AT THE risk of jumping the gun and getting it wrong, I reckon two names are going to be on everyone's lips next week.

And those two players could well provide one of the greatest individual Grand Final match-ups of all time.

Hayne v Slater.

Now I'm getting in early with this column to beat the rush.

Can you imagine the extent of the media coverage these two great fullbacks will command next week if, as I predict, the Eels and Storm meet in the premiership decider?

Along with Johnathan Thurston, Hayne and Slater are the best players in the game right now.

If Hayne's incredible second half of the season has put him out in front as the world's best player, Slater, last season's Golden Boot winner, is only a cigarette paper-width behind.

We have all been talking up Hayne for obvious reasons as the Eels' remarkable surge towards the unlikeliest of titles gathered momentum in recent months.

Slater must have been looking on and thinking about what he had to do to pinch some of that limelight back.
So how does he react?

He comes out and scores four tries in a semi-final against defending premiers Manly. Unbelievable.

A quick check of their stats indicates just how dominant both fullbacks have been for the Eels and the Storm.

Coming into the preliminary finals, they had both played 24 games.

Slater has scored 15 tries to Hayne's 14.

Hayne's individual brilliance has seen him make 32 line-breaks and run for 4166m with the football at an average of 173m a game.

Slater has 21 line breaks and run for 2957m at 123m per game average.

But if Billy lags behind in those stats, he reigns supreme when it comes to creating for teammates.

It's the area of his game that has really come on in leaps and bounds over the past few seasons.

He is no longer simply an explosive, running fullback and his stats back that up.

This season, Slater has 19 line-break assists to his credit to Hayne's five and 19 try assists to Hayne's 13.
So just who is the more valuable?

If you spoke to Craig Bellamy from the Storm and the Eels' Daniel Anderson, I'm sure both coaches would say they wouldn't swap either one for the other.

Which leads me into the big Grand Final qualifiers tonight and tomorrow night and their potential influence.

Eels v Bulldogs

What a game and what an atmosphere. I can't wait for it.

You could argue the Bulldogs have been the most consistent side all season and with Noddy Kimmorley back, they are a massive chance here.

Hooker Mick Ennis is a key.

But the Eels have enormous momentum and in a tight contest, it could well be some Hayne brilliance which gets his side home.

Storm v Broncos

If Brisbane's forwards can start with the sort of ferocious intent they showed against the Dragons, they will be in this game for a long time.

The loss of halfback Peter Wallace, though, is massive and even with Darren Lockyer there, Brisbane will miss Wal's attacking kicking game big time.

The Storm were great against Manly two weeks ago with their big names all to the fore. Defensively, the team were outstanding.

At home and with Slater in full flight, I just think they will have a few too many points in them for the Broncos.

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