Work boots, sun hats, surfboards and a paddock full of beautiful horses – this is what life after the Melbourne Storm looks like for legendary NRL player Billy Slater.
Sure, it’s not as intense as playing footy for a living, but it’s certainly just as fulfilling, not to mention muddy. On September 30th 2018 after 16 years in the NRL, Billy played his final game for the Melbourne Storm.
The fullback has more football accolades and club records to his name than we can count including four grand final wins, two Clive Churchill Medals, the Dally M Medal and the Golden Boot. Not bad for our Innisfail golden boy!
Since retiring from football, Billy, wife Nicole and their two kids, Tyla, 11 and Jake, nine have literally moved to ‘greener pastures’ to pursue a whole new field of passions.
Love at First Gallop
Before Billy moved to Melbourne to play football, he had his heart set on horses. He even worked for racehorse trainer Gai Waterhouse in his teens.
Billy and Nicole, also an FNQ local, met in Pony Club when they were young teens. The pair would compete against each other on weekends and began dating in their early twenties. After speaking to them both, it’s clear they haven’t lost their spark, or their competitive edge.
Now, nearly 20 years later, they are both able to return full time to their passion for the ponies.
“We set up a small breeding business a few years ago called Slater Thoroughbreds. We’ve got a couple of broodmares, a couple of two-years-olds, and a little foal which is exciting.”
“We’re very lucky that our work is our passion. We don’t get up in the morning and think, ‘Oh, we have to get up and go to work.’ I’m doing things that I absolutely love and when you do that, it’s very hard to call it work.”
Much of their days are now spent in their backyard, digging holes, setting up fences, getting dirty and building their dream paddock.
“Our shoulders are so bloody sore,” the couple jokes. But, this time around, it has nothing to do with football.
Family Fun First
Life off the footy field also means more time to horse around with the kids, usually doing something outdoorsy and sporty. “95 percent of our life is unglamorous,” Billy jokes. The Slaters would take the beach over a fancy event any day. “It’s these beach days when we connect most with the kids,” Nicole adds. “We waste the whole day building sandcastles or teaching the kids to surf.”
Getting People Moving
This active outlook inspired both Billy’s Buddies and the Move with Billy Slater app, two additional projects Nicole and Billy have on their plates.
Billy’s Buddies is an extra-curricular program for two-to-six year-olds, teaching them rugby league skills while building their confidence and getting them used to a team environment.
Move with Billy Slater is a fitness app for “building healthier and happy lifestyles” with easy 10-minute workouts and plenty of nutritional information.
“Move is a really simple program – it’s about getting people moving.” Nicole explains, “We’re an outdoorsy, active family. I think we’ve just tried to bottle this up and share it with Australia.”
No Easy Ride
While these days it’s less about tackles and tries, Billy is still very much involved in football, coaching at St Kilda and working as a sports’ commentator on Channel 9.
But, to their kids Tyla and Jake, Billy and Nicole are just mum and dad and the down-to-earth duo work hard to keep them grounded. Both kids are into sport and Jake is already showing a passion for football like his dad.
“I think it’s important for kids to be kids and let them develop in their own time. We need to build that work ethic, that determination, that resilience to knuckle down and work on it rather than just quit.”
“We are about giving the kids the tools, the information, the experiences in life, so when the time comes,
they can make their own judgements.”
One thing is for sure; Billy, Nicole and the kids are definitely making the most of post-professional football life.