This year was meant to be a new beginning for Corey Oates but instead everything old is new again as the Broncos flyer rediscovers his passion for the game and the formula that made him one of the NRL’s most dangerous wingers.
Oates had prepared to transition into the back row in 2021 and spent his entire off-season working on the little muscles in his body to make him more durable, fitter and stronger in preparation for a tougher workload playing in the forwards.
But with his positional switch aborted Oates is now confident his off-season training program will make him a better winger as he prepares to confront Blake Ferguson in Friday’s clash with Parramatta in Darwin.
"I hope it hasn’t slowed me down. I feel really good," Oates said.
"You don’t listen to the old fellas too much when you’re coming through and they say look after your body and do the right things in the off-season.
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"[But last off-season] I trained with Liam, my wife’s brother, he is an exercise physio and I spent eight weeks doing a heap of movement stuff with him and just strengthened up all the small muscles in my body and it’s been the best thing I’ve done."
Oates had to force his way back into the NRL via five weeks in the Intrust Super Cup but starred upon return to the Broncos in last Thursday’s spirited 20-12 loss to Penrith.
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The 26-year-old said he’d gone back to his old preparation plans this year after he strangely veered away from his usual build-up to games last year, blaming that for the dip in his own form in 2020.
"For some reason I don’t know why I changed the way I prepared the last year and a bit and I don’t know why I did that," he said.
"It obviously didn’t work so I’ve just gone back to what I used to do and just relax.
"[Last week] was the best I’ve felt coming into a game, I was just really excited and really happy. I want to get back to enjoying the game.
"If I’m happy during the week and doing all the right things and doing things I know I was doing in previous years then I can get the best performance out of myself then I’ve got no excuse going into games.
"As long as I’m running hard and trying to get quick play-the-balls for the halves to play off I feel like I’m doing my job."
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Now he has reclaimed his left-wing spot, he has no intention of giving it back. He is focused on forming a strong combination with winger-turned-centre David Mead and fullback Jamayne Isaako.
"When you get dropped it hits you pretty hard, it was pretty hard to cop," he said.
"You have a bit more appreciation of being in the team and playing for the club. It’s the best club, I love the place."
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Meanwhile, the Broncos remain hopeful former Test and Origin star Karmichael Hunt will join the club in the coming weeks on a short-term deal that could lead to the former AFL and rugby union player being available to play in the Telstra Premiership after round 10.
Hunt is playing with Souths Logan in the Intrust Super Cup and is finalising paperwork between the Broncos and NRL over what role he can play at the club and what his playing capacity could be before agreeing to join Brisbane for training.