Brisbane winger Corey Oates has promised to fight for his position and his NRL career in what looms as a make-or-break 2024 season for the veteran flyer.
"I will be trying to prove to myself that I have still got it. Hopefully the coaches can see it and have belief in me," Oates said.
The 29-year-old signed a one-year contract extension last week after an injured-riddled year that limited him to just nine games, in which he failed to score a try.
Despite scoring 118 tries in 201 NRL games for the Broncos, Oates must face the reality that he is in a fierce battle for his future due to young gun Deine Mariner waiting for his chance.
Herbie Farnworth has gone to the Dolphins and that does open up a position for either 20-year-old Mariner or for regular 2023 winger Jesse Arthars to make a switch to centre.
Arthars was one of the best for Brisbane in the grand final and had a great year on the wing. Selwyn Cobbo will be the other winger. Mariner can also handle the position but prefers centre.
Oates has to make a statement to edge out Arthars or Mariner and he will need to do so early in the pre-season.
His injuries last season were "pure bad luck" in his own words.
Oates's jaw was broken in a tackle that led to North Queensland fullback Scott Drinkwater being suspended. He then suffered a posterior cruciate ligament injury that kept him on the sidelines.
While he was injured the Broncos kept winning and Oates was unable to claim his position back in the finals as coach Kevin Walters elected to stick with Arthars and Cobbo.
"Jesse had a great season and deserved his spot," Oates said.
"There is always competition with young kids coming through every year. The older you get the harder it always is to keep your spot and prove your worth.
"I am trying to prove to myself that the injuries didn't affect me. When I came back I felt that I had everything that I had at the start of the year."
Oates is settled in Brisbane with his young family and does not want to leave the Broncos, the club he supported as a youth and joined as a teenager.
"I don't want (2024) to be my last year. You work so hard for so many years," Oates said.
" I don't want my decision to (retire) to be anyone else's. I want it to be my own. I don't want it to be this year. I feel like I have another couple in me still.
"Hopefully the year is more positive and the club believes in me."
Australian Associated Press