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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.