Super-sub conundrum: Club legend, great’s son and brave rake to battle for a bench spot

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The deafening roar of the Suncorp Stadium crowd when Corey Oates joined the fray was reminiscent of Sam Kerr striding out for the Matildas – the hysterics announcing the end of his NRL hiatus.

Now the Broncos stalwart has revealed the extent of a knee injury that plagued the early phases of his season, and the measures he took to make it “the best it’s felt in a long time”.

Unseated by youngster Deine Mariner in the right wing spot, Oates admitted that setback fuelled a relentless approach to his training.

But all that did was aggravate a knee concern and reduce him to solo runs on the sidelines at Red Hill’s training base. This all followed a tumultuous 2023, when knee and jaw woes limited him to just nine games.

Now free of the concern, his 14-minute comeback in Brisbane’s 38-12 triumph over the Cowboys was marked by his first try since 2022, as he declared his intention to become his beloved club’s super sub.

“It [his knee] gave me a bit of grief, and I didn’t give it a rest. When I didn’t get picked, I kept trying to push and push and push, and it did me no good in the end,” Oates said.

“I had to get a couple of needles to settle it down, and that’s the reason I was training away from everyone for the last few weeks. But it feels the best it’s felt for a long time.

“[The cheer] was crazy, it gave me massive chills. The crowd and the fans are the big reason why I’ve always stayed.”

Oates made his name as a towering winger whose 105-kilogram frame tore rival defences to shreds as he went on to become the Broncos’ fourth all-time leading try scorer.

But the career-best form of Jesse Arthars and the speed of Mariner triggered a freefall down the pecking order.

The 29-year-old once viewed himself as an edge forward, only for former coach Wayne Bennett to shut down that move and transform him into a State of Origin flyer.

Now, with current mentor Kevin Walters opting for pace over aggression in his backs, Oates believes he can become the Broncos’ long-term super sub, and remain core to their premiership tilt beyond 2024.

“When you start getting older, you get the young kids coming through, and they push for your position. Something’s got to give eventually,” Oates said.

“I’m very lucky that my body allows me to play multiple positions. The body is actually feeling really good.

“The speed is really good, the lungs are probably the best they’ve been, so I’m just happy to slot in wherever I can.

“I’ve played all the positions before, so it’s nothing new for me.”

Oates’ chance on Friday came as the Broncos battled an injury crisis – Reece Walsh’s facial fracture convincing Walters he needed outside backs coverage, while Payne Haas and Brendan Piakura’s absences limited their forward depth.

But despite his try-scoring exploits, a full-strength line-up presents a selection conundrum.

Hooker Tyson Smoothy has been favoured for the No.14 jumper to interchange with Billy Walters, scoring a try and making 33 tackles in a brave display against North Queensland.

However, the emergence of Tristan Sailor as a genuine game-changer has made him a near impossible man to axe once Walsh returns.

The fullback ran for 192 metres and five tackle busts on Friday, while his ability to cover the whole backline makes him a versatile prospect.

And the son of club great Wendell Sailor believes his training-ground battles with Walsh would prove his greatest advantage.

“Smoothy was really good and Oatesy was really good, [but] hopefully I can find a bench spot. I am going to seize the opportunity the best I can,” Sailor said.

“[Walsh and I] play on two opposing teams at training, [and] we challenge each other with doing trick plays. Organising [defensive] lines against someone like Walshy is going to make me better.

“The first thing he did the next day [after he was injured] was message me and say how excited he was for me. He is very passionate and wants to be back over the next couple of weeks.”

Sydney Morning Herald
 
It’s a pragmatic choice.

Can Walters play 80 minutes? No, so we need a second hooker on the bench.

The only position Sailor can really cover is Fullback, maybe 5/8

Oates can cover wing or second row, which allows other players to cover fullback, centre and the halves.
 
I would hate to be Walters.

Both of them have their advantages. It's a tough choice.
 
Nah it isn't a tough choice, Oates every day of the week. Oates can cover wing and second row comfortably and has played centre before, he even debuted there from memory.

Sailor can cover fullback and probably the halves but with Walsh also able to do that and Cobbo also able to cover fullback, Sailor's positions are already mostly covered.

If we lose Piakura, which is becoming a regular occurrence despite his massive talent, Sailor doesn't help in that situation at all, Oates does.

Plus, without an injury, Sailor becomes pretty redundant, Oates can go in to the middle / second-row rotation.
 
Nah it isn't a tough choice, Oates every day of the week. Oates can cover wing and second row comfortably and has played centre before, he even debuted there from memory.

Sailor can cover fullback and probably the halves but with Walsh also able to do that and Cobbo also able to cover fullback, Sailor's positions are already mostly covered.

If we lose Piakura, which is becoming a regular occurrence despite his massive talent, Sailor doesn't help in that situation at all, Oates does.

Plus, without an injury, Sailor becomes pretty redundant, Oates can go in to the middle / second-row rotation.
Yes I've mentioned before Piakura's constant run of injuries has become a real concern. There has to be something not right with him. a busted ankle and out for up to four weeks his latest setback - from a training run FFS!. I know shit like this happens, but it seems to happen to Brendan way more often than anyone else.
 
Yes I've mentioned before Piakura's constant run of injuries has become a real concern. There has to be something not right with him. a busted ankle and out for up to four weeks his latest setback - from a training run FFS!. I know shit like this happens, but it seems to happen to Brendan way more often than anyone else.
Every player gets injuries, some get them out of the way young.

Tedesco was plagued with major injuries, as was Benji. They’re the first that spring to mind but I’m sure there’s more.

I’m not worried about Brendo yet
 
Every player gets injuries, some get them out of the way young.

Tedesco was plagued with major injuries, as was Benji. They’re the first that spring to mind but I’m sure there’s more.

I’m not worried about Brendo yet
Love your optimism matey :happy:
 
You know they're battling to get a grab headline when they call you a "brave rake".
 
Finally. There was a real lack of this stuff this year. Someone posted a rumour last year that fooled everyone for a couple of minutes.

QRL did a beauty a few years back releasing photos of the new QLD jersey that was photoshopped blue.

A LOT of people had a fit in the comments section before they realized it was April 1.
 

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