Xavier Coates was at home asleep when he got the phone call from a Queensland team official at 10.30pm on Saturday night asking if he could play in Origin II at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
Just 24 hours later his dream comeback had turned into a nightmare after the Maroons surrendered the Origin series with a 26-0 loss to NSW and Coates’ opposite winger Josh Addo-Carr bagged a double.
Coates was the late addition to the Maroons after Ronaldo Mulitalo was ruled out due to an ineligibility farce that had Queensland coach Paul Green blaming the NRL for not clarifying the Cronulla player’s allegiance when he signed his past two playing contracts.
The winger turned up to Broncos training at Red Hill on Sunday morning still unsure if he’d play Origin but coach Kevin Walters told Coates to sit out the session as they awaited the final decision on whether he would be needed at the Maroons later that night.
“I came into training this morning at the Broncos and wasn’t sure if I was to train or not but Kevvie told me to sit back and not to train just in case and I ended up getting the call-up,” Coates said.
Contract kerfuffle: Green outlines events leading up to Mulitalo's exit
“As a professional footy player that is my job to always be prepared if worse comes to worse and I was prepared but obviously the result tonight is not a very good one.”
While much of the focus was on the awkward and devastating shattered Origin dreams of Mulitalo, Coates had his own emotional week to contend with after he was axed by Green over the phone last Sunday as one of five changes to the side thumped 50-6 in Origin I.
“He gave me a call up and gave me an explanation why I wasn’t in the team and I appreciate the call that he gave me,” Coates said.
“You know as a footy player it is always a goal of mine to get better and there were things I could’ve done to get better and that’s all part of it.
“I’m always learning and I took that advice on board and with the week off I tried to put that into parts of my training. I took it on board.
“I don’t know if I should say it (why he was dropped) in the media, just certain aspects around my positioning as a winger. It’s those aspects I need to get better.”
Coates certainly looked to be running with more intent in Origin II and finished the game with 14 runs for 93 metres gained and eight tackle breaks but still came up with three missed tackles from six attempts.
Turbo saves a certain try to Coates
“I don’t think I can say too much about my performance, it’s a team performance collectively so I don’t have any words to say about my performance, but we are all devastated as a collective, as a group, so what we’re going to try to do is not let this be a 3-0 series,” Coates said.
“We need to bring it back and at least make it a 2-1 series. That is what we’re going to look to try to do come game three.”