Speedster Michael Oldfield, the player most likely to replace William Hopoate on the wing for premiers Manly-Warringah, says talking to himself on the field will be the key to staying focused as he attempts to cement his spot in first grade.
Oldfield, who has played 15 games for the Sea Eagles over the past two years including 10 matches on the wing last season, admitted he often found concentration a problem when the action shifted towards the opposite sideline.
“It’s just hard… concentrating; you’re a bit out there on your own so you tend to fall away from the game a bit,” Oldfield told NRL.com.
The 21-year-old, who joined the Sea Eagles after playing rugby union for elite Scots College during the final two years of his secondary schooling, said it was important for wingers to find a way to stay switched on.
“Try to get more involved and do something… just talk to yourself,” he continued.
Oldfield said it was ironic the two players who’d helped him most to date – veteran Michael Robertson and Hopoate – had opened the door to a consistent first grade career following their retirement and missionary work respectively.
“I’ve talked to a few of the boys and they’ve all been pretty encouraging, saying that I might get a good crack this year,” he said.
“I wouldn’t have liked it, earning a spot that way – but that’s just the way it is with footy and life and those boys have chosen their paths.
“[It’ll] probably look after me. It’s exciting but I won’t believe in it until I’m there every week.
“Robbo – he’s always been good. Every time I’ve asked him anything he’s always given me twice as long a response as I deserved.
“Hoppa’s been good – being a close mate he’s been really good for my game. Just everyone in general. All the boys have always backed us young boys… never shy to give us a word.”
And Oldfield revealed his good friend was hoping to get the chance to play alongside him when the Blues star returned to the NRL in 2014.
“… He (Hopoate) would like to see me at Parramatta in years to come! He dropped that a couple of times!”
But Oldfield said he knows he needs to make significant improvement if he’s to hold down a first grade spot in 2012.
“I could name everything possible for a footy player, but probably just awareness and footy brains… just staying switched on and always on top of my game,” he said.
While he’s happy to concentrate on wing for now, Oldfield is eyeing an eventual move to the centres.
“Centre is much more enjoyable – you see a lot more of the ball,” he said. “But I think as someone who hasn’t got much experience I’d like to cement my spot on the wing and then maybe in the future move inside.”
He rates another winger who’s entering his fourth NRL season as his toughest opponent.
“It’d have to be [Jharal] Yow Yeh – he’s jumped over me once, twice and run past me a few times… so yeah, he’d have to be the best,” he said.
And can the Sea Eagles go back to back in 2012?
“Yep – 100 per cent,” he said. “It’s the same playing group, minus a few boys and I think there’s no difference with ‘Tooves’ (coach Geoff Toovey), so I think we’ll go the distance.”