FIRST ON 7: Security video obtained by 7News shows how Kangaroos star Billy Slater went from partygoer to assault victim in a matter of seconds outside a Manchester nightclub.
The 30-year-old Melbourne Storm fullback was detained by police for several hours after exchanging punches with a 40-year-old local outside the Mojo nightclub while celebrating the weekend's 50-0 win over Ireland with his Australian teammates.
Slater says he had left the nightclub shortly before 3am and shortly remembered he left a jumper inside the venue. When he returned to collect it, a Manchester man, reportedly frustrated by the fact Slater appeared to have pushed ahead of the queue, lashed out at the Kangaroos star.
Slater retaliated instantly and a flurry of fists ensued before police broke up the fight and arrested both men on suspicion of affray.
He was released without charge after police found he was acting in self-defence.
Slater described his involvement in the early-morning nightclub fight as a wake-up call for Kangaroos players but defended their right to celebrate victories.
An emotional Slater spoke about pain the incident caused his family back home and said he was disappointed it took focus away from Australia's unbeaten start to the Rugby League World Cup.
Slater, sporting no visible injuries, refused to go into detail about what happened before or during the fight, saying the police version of events was accurate.
He said while it was not common for players to be provoked by members of the public, the incident was a reminder to players about what can happen.
"I think we've got to be aware of the situations that we find ourselves in," Slater said.
"I suppose it's probably a bit of a wake-up call for everyone when we do go out.
"But I hope what happened last night doesn't jeopardise anyone else going out and having a good time."
Slater is set to keep his spot in the Kangaroos' Rugby League World Cup side despite his involvement in the early-morning fight.
Slater said coach Tim Sheens was disappointed to hear of the incident but it's understood the Kangaroos coach will not consider dropping his first-choice fullback for Saturday's quarter-final against the US.
While England have axed or suspended players including Gareth Hock, James Graham and Zak Hardaker over reported alcohol-related incidents at the tournament, Slater is likely to escape punishment because of the circumstances of his incident.
Sheens is yet to comment on the incident, though the fact it happened at 2.40am would be of concern and could prompt him to rethink a decision not to set his players a curfew.
Slater said on Monday night he had spoken to the coach, who was disappointed the incident had taken the spotlight away from Australia's unbeaten run through the tournament's group stage.
"Tim was disappointed, like I was, that the focus was away from where it should be," Slater said.
"I've spoken to Tim, that was his main disappointment."
It was the second late-night incident of the campaign for the Kangaroos, with forward Josh Papalii robbed on the team's first night in Manchester last month, however they have had an otherwise incident-free campaign so far.
Slater said he could understand some people would question why players were out but insisted Australia's players had carried a professional approach throughout the tour.
"I can understand that perception ... but we're over here for eight weeks and it's important to enjoy and celebrate your wins," Slater said.
"But obviously you'd like to stay away from these situations.
"... That's why I'm mostly disappointed that the focus is on this because we have been preparing for each game really diligently and I thought the performance on the weekend was quite good."
Australia were on Monday belatedly celebrating their 50-0 win over Ireland, having arrived back to their Manchester base from Limerick late after Saturday night's win.
Slater would not say how many of his teammates were still out at the time of the incident.