Broncos winger Corey Oates says a brutal but not unexpected end-of-season review by coach Anthony Seibold has him steeled to bounce back from what he himself described as one of his worst seasons in the NRL.
The review from the coach didn't come as a surprise to the 25-year-old who has now played 142 NRL games for Brisbane and enjoyed six full seasons as a regular and valued member of the team.
Oates has always had the humility to be able to critique his game honestly and after the Broncos capitulated 58-0 to the Eels in the elimination semi-final he knew what was coming from Seibold, and he knew it wasn't going to be good.
"I don't know what everyone else copped but it was pretty honest stuff for me. I don't think many guys in the team can say they had their best year," Oates said.
"I know myself I had one of my worst years and it wasn't great for me.
"Everything Seibs told me at our meeting was true and I probably deserved it. I have to work hard now and fix up all the little areas where I came unstuck.
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"He basically said it was my worst year, it was terrible. I started the year off great then I finished the year terribly. I said I wanted to be a consistent player and this year I did nothing like that. He told me what I already knew. I wasn't surprised. I will cop it and move on.
"There's a lot of us that need to step up. I know I will be doing whatever I can to change my mindset and get back to working harder. That will be this off-season and hopefully the boys feel the same way."
For several seasons in a row Oates has signed one-year deals but his latest contract gives him player options in his favour for 2021 and 2022. He is signed until the end of 2020 and said there was a cut-off point during the season where he could agree to take up his option with the club or look elsewhere. Oates doesn't want to leave Brisbane but he said the structure of his deal gave him flexibility and security at the same time.
"It's not really one [year]. It's more a three-year deal. The two years are options in my favour so I can leave whenever I want to leave. I don't have to stress, I can make my mind up pretty easily," he said.
"You see it all the time, a club buys a player and you are sitting there playing Queensland Cup. I plan on being here for the next few years but that is up to me.
"I want to help the team out more. This year I took the foot off the pedal. I started well but I lost my way a bit."
Oates said he felt as though he let coach Seibold down at the back end of the year after he started the season strongly at club level and retained his place in the Maroons side at State of Origin level.
"He asked us last year to step up and lead the team and a lot of us let him down there. I just have to worry about myself and fix my own game… as a senior player you need to be doing your job and I let the team down," he said.
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"After Origin, I just dropped off and I couldn't get my form back. The season got away from me and I couldn't improve at all. It was hard mentally towards the end of this year with how I was playing. I couldn't get out of the form slump I was in. It was pretty disappointing for myself."
In 2020 Oates will have two of the Broncos brightest young outside backs Herbie Farnworth and Xavier Coates breathing down his neck.
The duo can play anywhere in the outside backs and both got a taste of NRL action in 2019 where they impressed with limited opportunities.
"They are great young fellas and they will be putting pressure on me. You want to stamp your authority and let them know you are there," Oates said.
"They showed last season what they can do. We have good talents coming through. They will get their shot and they did a great job last season with their games. They will push me to be the best version of me and what I can bring. It will make me play better."