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Oates: Infection floored me but taught me plenty as well

After losing six kilos and spending nine days in hospital on a drip after Christmas, I can honestly say this pre-season has been a really tough one, but I also believe it is one that can make me a stronger person and player than I’ve ever been.

I had a recurrence of a staph infection that I suffered two years ago when I ended up in hospital for six days and missed six weeks of footy after the infection got in my hips and groin.

This time it all started with a little cut I got on my leg at training just before the end of last season, which I didn’t think much about at the time.

It caught up with me months later, which I’ll get to shortly.

The first time I had an infection like this I did a lot of work on my hips and groin to strengthen those areas.

I’ve been doing that again with my leg and the trainers are all very confident I can get back to my best.

If you’d asked me a few weeks ago whether I'd get back to top form I would have said no because I’d never felt so weak, slow and unfit in my life.

I found it so tough to run, do gym and I felt as though I had no speed.

I had a meeting with Darren Lockyer the other day and he told me these are the moments in your career that define you as a player and when you find out a lot about yourself.

Locky said that after such a big blow, if I can get back to where I was then I can be really proud of myself.

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He’s been there and done that and it was really good to hear. I know players have come back from long-term injuries, and I know I can come back from this.

How I got to this point is a story and a half.

On Christmas Day I was peeling prawns and got a sore back, and a few aches, and I thought it was just from bending over and peeling. The pain eventually went away.

The next day we drove to Agnes Waters for holidays and I started getting bad pains in my kidneys and one side of my body, and I just thought it was from driving and sitting down for so long. Once again, the pain disappeared.

The next day I woke up with a sore back and lumps in my glands. I didn’t think much of it again and went and played golf.

As I played the pain got worse and my leg got bigger and bigger. I'd had a tag mark for a few years and every now and then it flared up, so I thought it might be that.

By the end of the golf day I could barely walk, but I didn’t want to stop because I was hitting them OK.

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My wife Tegan said to me that we weren’t going to risk it again so we needed some medical advice. I went to the local chemist and he was mates with a doctor.

I saw the doc and he said I’d need some tests and a scan. He gave me some antibiotics and said if it got worse that I should go to Bundaberg Hospital. I had a nap and woke up with a really bad fever and my knee was all red.

Tegan went straight into action and drove me to Bundaberg Hospital and I was given a bed, some morphine and I had a scan.

The doctor filled me in at 11pm that night and they were thinking about cutting me open and operating.

I asked if he would mind if I rang my club doctor at the Broncos and after consulting our surgeon it was decided I should go back to Brisbane.

Looking back, I am very grateful to Tegan for being so proactive and getting me to hospital early.

Tegan drove me south the next day and I went straight into Brisbane Private Hospital and our surgeon Peter Myers saw me.

They took a sample from my leg and it turned out it was a repeat of the staph infection so I was put on antibiotics and spent nine days in hospital on a drip.

I went in at 106 kilos and lost six kilos but I am back to 104 or 105 so I am slowly getting back to where I need to be.

I have seen Dr Myers for a fair few of my injuries and he’s told me that if I ever get another cut, and it is open, to make sure I get it cleaned and covered straight away. I’ll be taking his advice, that is for sure.

I didn’t have a smooth pre-season but it was one of the few where I wasn’t coming off a serious injury or operation. It was the best pre-Christmas I’d ever had and I felt as strong as I ever had.

I have to prove a few things to play round one but I am doing pilates and a few extra things to get the muscles in my body right.

I’m staying really positive about the season ahead. I was at that high point before Christmas and I don’t see any reason why I can’t get back there again before round one.

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Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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