COREY Oates is racing towards a comeback in three weeks from a rare infection, in what would be a major boost to the Broncos’ chances of a top-four finish.
The towering winger made a surprise appearance at Red Hill, running for the first time since he was hospitalised with an extremely rare staph infection.
It was a positive sign for the 22-year-old, who is now just waiting on the green light from a specialist to return to proper training, possibly as soon as next week.
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett told The Courier-Mail the club is hopeful he will be back playing in “around three weeks” while the club’s high-performance manager Jeremy Hickmans said Oates pulled up well after yesterday’s running drills.
Hickmans said that while Oates has lost a little bit of muscle because of his lengthy recovery from the illness, he is in a good position to start working back towards his NRL return.
“We need to get him ready to play as soon as we can while still being pretty careful around what we do with him,” Hickmans said.
“All the medical guys were happy for him to do some light work which is what he did (yesterday). We’re not pushing him from a conditioning point of view, we’re just getting him ready.
“It’s for his own head as well. He’s obviously been through the ringer a little bit with that kind of sickness.
“He’s been in hospital so to be around the team and to just do something, it makes him feel better, which helps the recovery in the long-term.
“He’s pretty happy. He can probably do more than he did (yesterday) but we’re not going to put him in that position.
“We’re just ticking along until we can start pushing him a little bit more and start testing him out.”
Oates’ first steps back included doing hill sprints away from his teammates, before spending some time running on the club’s training paddock.
He was outside for about 15 minutes, but Hickmans said he also did some gym work last week and on Monday.
Oates is expected to get more blood tests over the coming days and will see a specialist on Friday to get the all-clear to ramp up his training.
Hickmans himself was reluctant to put a timeline on Oates’ return date, but said that is mostly because they are unsure how the flyer will respond to moving back to full training.
“He might be good in a couple of weeks but it really depends on how he responds to it,” Hickmans said.
“He’s not getting sick after (training) or showing any adverse reactions. As soon as we get that tick off we can start moving forward bit by bit.”
Hickmans said however that even if they get the go ahead for Oates to train, he will still be on antibiotics and will need to go for regular check-ups to make sure the infection does not recur.
Teammate Josh McGuire said it was heartening to see Oates make his first steps towards his return.
“He’s a good fella and the boys love him,” McGuire said.
“It’s always good to see your mates back. Obviously he’s had a tough period the last month and a half and it hasn’t been easy for him, but he’s a hard worker.”