Oates ready for back row shift
Corey Oates is back on the training field for the Brisbane Broncos and hoping to secure a move from the wing to the back row.
The 23-year-old battled through the 2017 season with hip and groin pain that was linked to a serious staph infection which hospitalised him and kept him on the sidelines for six weeks.
Oates has not let his positional goal affect his play and has become a dynamic winger for both Brisbane and Queensland.
The Broncos have fielded star-studded back rows over recent seasons featuring representative players Matt Gillett, Alex Glenn and Josh McGuire.
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett installed Oates on the wing at the back end of 2015, and that is where he has remained.
"I enjoy the wing but it has never really been my preferred position," Oates told NRL.com.
"I've just stayed out there because apparently I am doing the job.
"I was happy to do that for the first couple of years but footy doesn't last forever and if you want to get the most out of it why not play where you enjoy it the most.
"I still love playing in the forwards, in the back row, and I am hoping that one day soon I can move back in. I can't wait until I am 27 or 28 to make a positional change."
Oates had a chuckle and said he'd had no indication from Bennett about whether that would be any time soon.
"He doesn't give you much until he makes his mind up. It is a guessing game," he grinned.
Earlier this year Oates signed a one-year extension and he's comfortable with only being under contract at the Broncos for 2018.
"This is going to be the year for me to make a decision on where I want to end up," he said.
Oates is in the mood for making some big decisions. He recently became engaged to his partner Tegan Miles in what he said was "another big step".
In previous off-seasons Oates has had surgeries on his shoulders, wrists and knees. In those summers he didn't do much training until after Christmas.
"I am not into full pre-season training yet after having my groins done over the holiday, but running at the start isn't such a bad thing," he said.
"With the surgery they snipped my tendons and let everything heal. It is just a slow process. You can run, but only at a certain pace for a while."
The staph infection is now thankfully a distant memory.
"The infection was an eye opener and it was [frightening] when I found out the extent of it," he said.
"I had the pain at the start of the year and I thought 'am I being a sook' but they said [the infection] can just lodge in there and cause you a bit of grief, and then one day it will want to come out and just cane you.
"They said it would be killed off but be there for a while after, so I had to go on antibiotic tablets for six weeks to make sure it was gone."
Broncos assistant coach Jason Demetriou has been impressed with Oates's attitude and energy during the pre-season.
"Overcoming what he did last season made him probably mentally tougher and also appreciate what he's got as well, when it is almost taken away from you," Demetriou said.
"He has a lot of energy about him and I think there is a lot more in him as well.
"I remember this time last year he was battling with the groin and little did we know what was going on inside.
"They probably got [the infection] just in the nick of time before it had spread and done a lot of damage structurally and he might not have recovered.
"He is appreciative of the fact that he is here and in rehab. His mouth is as loud as ever and that is always a good sign with Oatesy."
As for Oates's desire to switch positions, Demetriou suggested team dynamics would be the guiding factor.
"He has aspirations to play in the back row and you don't want to discourage that as a coach, but he's a world-class winger," he said.
"Talking to people that play against him, no-one likes tackling him that is for sure.
"The big thing for him is that he has got his head right and he's happy and excited about training. It is a long way before the season starts but he is in good shape."