Corey Oates is Bennett's secret weapon
By his own omission he can't pass and has never kicked the ball during his NRL career, but boy can boom Broncos back-rower Corey Oates run ferociously when he keeps the ball to himself.
Oates has become Wayne Bennett's secret weapon off the interchange bench in recent weeks with the 20-year-old scoring both the match-winning and match-sealing tries against the Panthers and Raiders in Rounds 9 and 12 respectively.
Bennett will be hoping his young charge can make another impact against the Sea Eagles at Sunorp Stadium on Friday night.
Coming off the pine as an 18-year-old to debut against the Storm at AAMI Park in Round 17, 2013, Oates quickly established himself as a handy bench utility when he slotted into the centres for an injured Jack Reed.
His eye-catching debut earned the Baralaba Panthers' junior an extended run in the side by then-coach Anthony Griffin, playing mostly on the wing and finishing the season with eight tries from nine games while also being named at second-row in the 2013 NYC Team of the Year.
The central Queensland product began his apprenticeship as a forward in 2014, but struggled with niggling injuries and a dip in form.
Beginning 2015 against the Sharks in Round 2, Oates found himself on the wing for his first seven games, scoring only twice, before reverting to the bench to accommodate Darius Boyd's return from injury in Round 9.
Averaging just 23 minutes when not in the starting side this season, Oates has already bagged a 79th-minute winner and scored a try from his very first touch against Canberra last weekend.
"He adds a bit to us in that [utility] role because he can play a number of positions. Every time he's come on in the last few weeks we've been in a tight situation and he's been able to pull something out for us," Bennett said.
"That's what you try and look for on your interchange bench – somebody who can offer a point of difference and he's got that for us."
Standing at 192 centimetres and weighing 108 kilograms, the gentle giant is tipped for a long career at the Broncos and is contracted until the end of 2017.
Demoted to the Intrust Super Cup by Griffin for a mid-week drinking session with teammates Reed and Daniel Vidot in July 2014, Oates has had to mature fast under the tutelage of Bennett.
"He's growing up Corey – figure-wise and mentality-wise. He's maturing," Bennett said.
"He's a big man I can tell you. Unless you're up standing beside him you don’t realise how big he is."
Oates made 106 metres from only seven runs against Canberra and says the secret to his recent try-scoring success is simple: keep the Steeden to yourself.
"I can't really pass so I don't really even look to pass," Oates said.
"On the weekend [against Canberra] when 'Reedy' passed me the ball all I heard was 'truck the thing – don't pass it!', so I just tucked the ball under my wing and kept going."
The Biloela-born behemoth has made 28 tackle busts so far this season, second behind Anthony Milford who has 36, with five line breaks from 11 games.
With a typically laid-back country attitude, Oates is happy to bide his time playing in a utility role rather than locking down a permanent position within the Broncos line-up.
"I'm not too worried at the moment. I'm just happy being out there playing with the boys and not going in each week thinking I'm going to play a certain position," he said.
"[The second row] is my preferred position but I've still got a lot to prove. I've got to get a lot fitter and stronger and mentality tough, so I think Wayne is pretty comfortable right now just chucking me wherever he wants at the moment.
"I just go out there and do my job and try not to let anyone down."