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Cronk backs forgotten man Slater to return

AAP logoAAP 20/11/2016

Cooper Cronk has backed forgotten man Billy Slater to come back stronger than ever next season and prove he's still the world's best fullback.

Cronk, who was named Four Nations man of the series after helping Australia recapture their world No.1 ranking from New Zealand early on Monday said his long-time Melbourne teammate is champing at the bit to get back out on the field after a shoulder injury ended his 2016 season.

In Slater's absence Darius Boyd has excelled in the No.1 jersey for both Australia and Queensland and was named man of the match for his display in the 38-4 final win over New Zealand.

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga also said the spine of Boyd, Cronk, skipper Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston was the best he had ever seen in any team in his long career.

However, Cronk said it was premature to write Slater off from the international scene, despite the champion fullback turning 34 next June.

"He's one of the greatest fullbacks ever to play the game," Cronk said.

"I've seen his battles, his progress and his battles and struggles over the last couple of years.

"Not to put any pressure on him as he will forge his own path.

"But if I was a gambling man then I would say Billy Slater will be back to his best any time soon."

Cronk's award caps off brilliant individual year for the halfback who was was also named joint Dally M Medal winner alongside Kiwi powerhouse Jason Taumalolo.

"It could have been a little bit nicer if we had won the grand final,' Cronk said.

"But it's been a good year personally and to win this is a fitting send off."

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