Oates feared he'd missed out
'I sort of assumed I wasn't picked'
When Monday morning came around and Brisbane Broncos winger Corey Oates had still not received a call from Queensland Maroons coach Kevin Walters he assumed that his State of Origin dream was over.
Oates did not hear from Walters all weekend, keeping his phone on him at all times as he awaited the call to let him know his Origin fate.
The weekend passed and the 22-year-old, who played three Origin matches for the Maroons in 2016, thought Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks star Valentine Holmes or Melbourne Storm champion fullback Billy Slater had taken his spot.
But within an hour of the team being officially announced to the public, Oates received the phone call he had been waiting for.
It was a just reward for Oates who has had a solid year for the Broncos, particularly in the metres he has gained running the ball out of trouble from his own end.
Although Oates would prefer to have more than the five tries he has accumulated this year, his run metres are among the best in the game.
The Baralaba junior is averaging 174 running metres a game, with this being more than any other player in Brisbane's side.
His big body and hard-running style of play makes him a must in Walters's side, but Oates was sure he was going to be overlooked.
"Yeah I was nervous waiting for the phone call. I didn't know what was going to happen," Oates said.
"They obviously had some tough calls to make so I was just waiting until they announced the team. I had the phone next to me.
"Honestly I only found out just before the team was officially announced. I sort of assumed I wasn't picked.
"Luckily I still had a decent weekend, but I always had my phone next to me. I was just waiting."
It is Oates' second year in Maroons camp and he said it is a lot easier this time around, with the laidback winger glad to no longer be a rookie.
"It is not as nerve-racking this time around. I dare say it'll pretty similar to last year though," he said.
"I'm really enjoying it. It was a good time in camp last year and it'll be the same this year."
One thing that is the same for Queensland in 2017 is the presence of Bronco Darius Boyd at fullback.
Boyd was selected to wear the No.1 jersey ahead of Maroons legend Slater, with Walters deciding to stick with Boyd despite a strong late push from Slater to be selected.
This decision is one that works in Oates' favour as both he and Boyd look to continue the strong combination they have formed at club level.
Oates said as disappointing as it is not to see a player of Slater's calibre in the squad, he is excited to continue working with Boyd at a higher level.
"Darius is one of the best fullbacks in the game," Oates said.
"It helps my game a lot because we have a good combination. That's always a good aspect of him being in the team because it keeps us together."