Tough love from Wayne Bennett set Corey Oates on his State of Origin path.
Like, really tough love.
“I don’t think I will ever get a compliment from Wayne, I really don’t,” Oates said after graduating from Brisbane bench backrower to Queensland winger within 18 months.
But no lesson from the hard marking NRL master coach could prepare Oates for the hurdle that emerged with a Queensland jersey within his grasp.
Oates had one final chance to impress Maroons selectors before they named their squad for the June 1 series opener – last Friday night’s NRL derby against North Queensland.
It was the biggest match of the 21-year-old’s blossoming career.
Yet it was the last thing on Oates’ mind.
His head was spinning after returning from his beloved grandfather’s funeral – literally.
Dizzy spells followed by an irregular heartbeat hampered his first half display for Brisbane.
By halftime the team doctor refused to let him return to the field.
“It was a bit of a scare,” Oates said.
“I was pretty down. I don’t think I really went into the Cowboys game in the right mindset.
“It was a tough week. I think that had a lot to do with what happened that night.”
Oates got a medical clearance – and a thumbs up from the Queensland selectors.
The towering winger will now make his Origin debut in the series opener in Sydney.
He is the toast of his tiny central Queensland hometown of Baralaba.
And of course, the apple of his parents’ eye.
“They are happy. All the money they spent on me as a kid has all been worth it,” Oates said of their epic weekend journeys pursuing junior sport in far flung central Queensland venues.
“There are some fair treks out there. It could be anywhere from an hour to two or three.
“And they would have to wait the whole day pretty much because they would drive the bus for everyone.
“They would be like the town bus.
“Mum and dad will be at the game but I’m sure everyone in town will be watching at the Baralaba Pub.”
Now if only he could get some love from Bennett.
Asked if he had spoken to Bennett since earning his Origin nod, Oates said: “Only the next day when I grabbed my gear (at Broncos).
“I just had a little talk, and that was it.
“I don’t think he likes talking too much.”