Melbourne are adamant they're not disrespecting the All Stars concept after admitting Billy Slater could be a late addition to their squad to play Canberra in a trial match at Geelong on Friday night.
Last month, the Storm fullback withdrew from the NRL All Stars side with an ankle injury, and was replaced by Melbourne teammate Justin O'Neill.
It follows the public uproar when Manly back-rower Anthony Watmough was also pulled out of Saturday's clash at Suncorp Stadium, only to be named in the Sea Eagles' trial squad to play Cronulla on Friday night.
After rating Slater's chances of playing as ''60-40'', Melbourne general manager of football Frank Ponissi defended the decision, saying it would be ''foolish'' to let him play All Stars given his limited training.
If Slater fronts at Geelong, he will play a maximum of 20 minutes to help him prepare for the World Club Challenge against Super League champions Leeds in England next week. The Queensland Origin star's inclusion is likely to infuriate the Raiders, who had hoped to rest Indigenous All Stars Blake Ferguson and Jack Wighton from the pre-season showpiece.
''[If he plays] it's 15 minutes of a trial in Geelong, it's far different than playing 80 minutes [for the NRL All Stars],'' Ponissi said. ''What people forget is the All Stars now, the players tell you when they get back it's not a trial, the intensity and speed of the game is very high.
''He just wasn't confident of getting through 80 minutes given the lack of training he's had, he just hasn't had the miles in his legs. You could not in all seriousness send a player out there with one week of full training. It would be foolish.''
Whether Slater plays depends on how he recovers from Melbourne's Thursday training run, with a decision to be made on match day.
- Canberra Times
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