Although his early morning enthusiasm might be “somewhat aggravating” as he loudly enters the Broncos‘ headquarters for another intense training session, Brisbane’s star player Jordan Riki admits he would be “devastated” if the team’s seasoned winger Corey Oates was pushed out.
Riki has begged Oates to prolong his tenure at Red Hill amidst the team’s undertaking to equilibrate an increasingly complex salary cap predicament. It’s no secret that deciding who stays and goes is one of the most stressful parts of the game.
Oates is poised to make a triumphant return from a knee injury this Saturday as the Broncos face-off against Canberra. This marks his 200th appearance in the NRL after overcoming his third major setback of the season with courage and determination.
While Oates has effectively established himself as the fifth leading Broncos try-scorer of all time, the emergence of rookie Deine Mariner along with the compelling performance of Jesse Arthars, and incoming high-priced contract extensions for Reece Walsh and Ezra Mam, might leave Corey Oates as the odd man out. Even Payne Haas‘ freshly minted pay rise could make retaining Oates tough to pull off.
Oates initial contract held player options that leaned towards sticking with the Broncos colors. However, at 28, Oates is said to have received a diminished salary offer to stay, leaving his future with the club uncertain.
“I’d be gutted [if Oates left], but I suppose that’s rugby league – it happens,” Riki sincerely expressed.
Riki continued, “He was a good mentor for me coming up through the ranks. It’s hard to say how things will pan out, but I’d really love to have him around for as long as we can. He initiated me into this whole culture and debuted at a young age himself, so he’s always been someone the younger lads could relate to and learn from.”
Riki praises Oates highly, acknowledging the critical role he has played in his development both on and off the field. “He’s had his highs and lows throughout his career, so he’s one person I’ve leaned on. He’s guided me not just on the field, but off it, teaching me how to cope with all the challenges that come our way,” Riki added.
As for Riki himself, he forms part of the upcoming frantic race by Brisbane management to secure a competitive squad aiming to vie for the NRL premiership.
With the contracts of Riki and fellow edge forwards Kurt Capewell and Brendan Piakura due to expire in 2024, they will be open to negotiations with rival teams from November 1. But as the Broncos strive to stabilise their forward pack, Riki stressed he hasn’t initiated extension discussions yet.
“To tell the truth, at the moment, my sole focus has been on playing well and relishing my life outside of footy,” Riki stated. “The most important thing for me now is to go into this finals series and play as a cooperative team to see where we end up.”
Riki lauded the camaraderie amongst the team, “We’re all extremely close and we all wish the best for one another. At the moment, we’ve all got one goal in mind, and that’s to claim the premiership this year. I don’t think anyone here fears competition; we are all envisioning the larger objective, which is to win the Grand Final.”