Broncos winger Corey Oates believes the key to getting back to his best form has come from reverting to the basics during a stint in reserve grade last year while putting all contract talks on hold.
Oates crossed for the 105th try of his career against the Rabbitohs last Thursday night with the 27-year-old enjoying a far more successful start to the year than recent times at Red Hill.
Brisbane’s current longest-serving player at the club was restricted to 28 games across the 2020 and 2021 seasons, which culminated in a wooden spoon and 14th placed finish respectively.
The former Maroons representative had a freakish run of injuries, at times career-threatening, in that period before finding himself playing in the Hostplus Cup as he looked to make his way back into first grade.
“I am probably close to the fittest I’ve been my whole career,” Oates said.
“If I keep competing and keep building on each performance each week, then who knows what could happen.
“I'm just happy to be enjoying it again. Get my carries, competing on all the plays and just finishing the tries off when I get the chance to.
“For the past few years I just haven't been there. I wasn't there every time. Balls going somewhere, I wasn't always there.
Oates flies high
“I am just trying to do those things better. Being there for the bounce. The small things you don't get looked at for, but it's a big play if it comes off.
“If I am doing all those things and getting back to doing the simple stuff I used to do well, the rest will come off that.”
Oates said the addition of Adam Reynolds as not only the chief playmaker of the side but as captain, had been immense for his consistency in first grade this season and bringing a belief to the club that was lacking recently.
“Reyno’s been a good help for that and a lot of people, he’s just said what you bring to a team is what I like so just get back to doing that,” Oates said.
“When things are going backwards you cancel out a lot of [support from family and friends]. You don’t tend to listen to everyone, you blame yourself and don’t think there’s any way out.
“Sitting in Q Cup last year made me realise that I wasn’t playing the way I could or being me, a player to get better or change.
“It wasn’t not enjoying it but I was just getting frustrated with myself. That took the enjoyment out of it because I was putting so much pressure on myself to perform.
"The Q Cup coach I was with at the time really helped me and said I’m a bit believer in you and to get back doing the simple things.
“I didn’t realise what I was doing before that was enough. All the hard carries and showing up for all kicks, those small effort areas, that’s what I brought to a team.”
Oates does everything but score
Oates is under no illusions he’s without a contract at the end of the year but has put a self-imposed ban on talking about his options with his manager until at least July.
The veteran winger has been linked to the Dolphins in recent weeks but has ambitions to be a one-club man at the Broncos.
“I’ve told him whatever I’ve got [lined up] to not tell me, I just want to keep playing,” Oates said.
“I haven’t seen or spoken to him, I’m not lying. It’s just better for me, it keeps me focused on playing.
“When it comes time he’ll give me the heads up. I’ve been in the position before.
“The contract stuff will look after itself if I keep performing, I guess.”