Corey Oates insists his pre-game ritual in the dressing sheds with Maroons legend Allan Langer is good for his hands and good for his head.
That is why, prior to the State of Origin series decider in Sydney, the Queenslander winger will be eagerly waiting with hands at the ready as Langer wobbles his crafty grubber kicks at Oates from close range to boost his confidence, technique and reflexes.
Langer, on the Maroons and Broncos training staff, does the same drill with Oates before every club and Origin game. The 24-year-old has not been happy with a few handling errors this season for Brisbane, but said Langer was a person he always turned to in order to get his game in order.
"I always like getting the ball in my hands as much as I can before the game to get a feel for the ball so I get Alf to kick me the ball in the sheds," Oates said.
"He stands about three or four metres away and just boots it at me ... pretty hard too. It is just a reaction thing so you are not snatching at it and just letting the ball come into your hands with that soft catch. It is about trying to get your brain switched on.
"Alf comes and grabs me before every game and is really good with it.
"I wasn’t happy with the balls I was dropping ... pretty easy bombs and balls going straight to me. It is just a concentration thing for me. You lose a bit of concentration and your hands just don’t quite get to the mark.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 3 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium
- Nine Network
"That is why I am always working on being alert and ready for the ball no matter who it is coming from, how fast it is coming or where it is coming from. You can get a bit lazy, and I reckon I was a bit lazy at the start of the year."
Langer has a reputation for lightening the mood in any squad that he is around but there is more to his presence than just making the players laugh and relax.
The career Langer had for the Maroons and Broncos still has Oates in awe. When he speaks, Oates listens.
"Just the player he was and the career he had ... when he is talking you are just listening," Oates said.
"You are taking everything in because you don’t want to let people like that down. I think that is the best thing about having people like Alf around the team, to give you a few words when things aren’t going great."
Oates said Langer, who is often on the field in his capacity as a trainer, had words of wisdom and encouragement that put him in the right frame of mind.
"It is all about having a crack and what it means. He says 'it doesn’t matter if you have got all the talent, you have got to have heart'. There are a lot of words Alf says that I can’t say,” Oates said.
"On the field he will run past you and give you a bit of cheek. It makes you relax. Even if you do something silly he is the first person to run over and say 'it is sweet ... all good and let’s go. Change your mindset and let’s switch on and get back in the game'.
"If I haven’t had a carry for a while he will run over and say 'go in and grab the ball'. He is just easy and can have a laugh."
Oates and his former Rockhampton juniors teammate Cameron Munster, the new Queensland fullback, have also been deep in conversation at Maroons training this week as they fine tune what will be a crucial combination.
At the Maroons’ first training run they both fielded kicks from Langer and Michael Morgan and worked on their communication. Oates is the left winger and Munster likes to lurk on the left side of the field in attack so their partnership will be critical against the Blues.
"I am trying to get a good connection with Munster. We played footy together a long time ago and we have just to have to work on what is beneficial to the both of us,” Oates said.
"He can throw a great cutout ball and my hands are going to have to be warmed up from the start of the game.
"I’m sure he is pretty pumped. I think he has always wanted to play fullback. The little man has got his wish and I am excited to see how he goes. He will be full of energy."
Oates is also energised about the challenge ahead in Sydney where the series goes on the line.
"Obviously it wasn’t the greatest result for us in Game Two so I think everyone is going to be fired up to the max," Oates said.
"It is going to be a massive occasion. It is in Sydney and no-one will be supporting us. There is nothing better than going there and getting the win against them at their home, especially with how vocal their crowd is going to be.
"It just pumps you up because you want to get one over them and keep them quiet. I am pretty excited."