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Xavier Coates: 'Bring on 2021'

Electric Queensland Maroons winger Xavier Coates is determined to have a cracking 2021 after a 2020 he described as a year of "huge ups and downs". 

The 19-year-old, who started last year "fighting for a position in the Broncos", said he was forever grateful his year finished on a high, winning State of Origin, after a year full of struggle. 

"We didn't have the best year in general at the Broncos," Coates, who played his first game for the year against Manly in Round 5, said. 

Xavier Coates during Round 5. Photo: NRL Images
Xavier Coates during Round 5. Photo: NRL Images

"I was feeling a bit down at the time because all you did was you trained, you played and you'd go home. When we weren't getting the results on the field, you'd just be turning on the TV, seeing it on the news non-stop, then going back to training and there's all media there and you'd be interviewed.... it just wasn't a good atmosphere around the club. 

"I think at the end of the year, when I got the call up into the Origin squad, I didn't really understand... not understand, but I didn't know how I made the team with the year we had.

"I think Wayne and a few of the coaching staff saw something in me throughout the year and ended up picking me... I just wanted to go in there and learn as much as I could.

"Then I ended up playing the first game and that was... well my interview, you could tell how much excitement I had. It meant so much to me. As a kid, any rugby league kid's dream is to play Origin. To finally fulfil that dream, it's something I hold very dear to my heart.

"2020 in a nutshell was a lot of ups and downs, but at the end of the day, I can't complain how it turned out... finished on a high."

In the sheds: Xavier Coates

The Papua New Guinea international said he enjoyed the back end of the year so much, he did not want to leave the Origin bubble on the Gold Coast. 

"We spent four or five weeks together... we weren't allowed out, we were stuck in the bubble, but that didn't hold us back from having a good time," Coates said.

"When we had to leave I was really sad because I didn't want to see all the boys go... we created such a good bond within the camp. 

"With all the coaching staff, it was an awesome time. I want to get a taste of it again this year."

Coates said he wanted to take all of the lessons he learned during the bubble, under the watchful eyes of coaches Wayne Bennett, Mal Meninga and Neil Henry, and "take that into my club football". 

"Hopefully I can play some good footy... make a stand in 2021," Coates said. 

"I had a good, refreshing start to 2021. Had a good break off, so coming back in to the pre-season, it was good to go and get amongst the boys again. See the new coaching staff. It's a real good atmosphere. It's really family-oriented. Kevie has made it really family-orientated, which is good. We're bringing inclusiveness within the club again, so it's good to be around that."

Xavier Coates after getting his Origin jersey from Mal Meninga. Photo: Scott Davis/QRL
Xavier Coates after getting his Origin jersey from Mal Meninga. Photo: Scott Davis/QRL

Coates said he was confident his niggling injuries during Origin would not be an issue moving forward. 

"I made sure after Origin I went and looked after my injuries. I went and looked after my groin, got my shoulder looked after, so I'm feeling good... fit and ready to go," Coates said. 

"I definitely want to put the Origin jersey on one more time... if not more times in the future. I just want to play the best footy I can and just learn as much as I can in this pre-season from Kevie and all of the coaching staff we have, especially with the calibre of players we have there at the club, it's good to learn off them.

"We have a lot of old boys coming back and helping us out. I've got Darbs helping me out with the outside backs. If I can learn as much as I can from that and put that into my football, I think everything will go well.

"Milford has been really impressive. He's been playing really good in the pre-season. He's looking really good and fit and ready to go for 2021. I reckon he's a player to watch out for. 

"We've got a few new faces. We've got David Mead, who was, as a young kid growing up, one of my idols. As a PNG kid, seeing what he did in NRL at the Titans and moving to the Broncos and over to the UK, seeing how good a footballer he is and where he came from, and how he plays his football, he was definitely an idol of mine. To hopefully take the field with him this year will be really good. 

"Bring on 2021."