Corey Oates reveals how he joined the Broncos by accident

For some reason, I’ve always hated catching public transport, but this was one bus ride I’m glad I didn’t miss.

To understand how I ended up at the Broncos, running out against the premiers, the Sydney Roosters, Friday night at Suncorp Stadium, you need to understand my past … and the sliding doors moment that changed my life.

I was 15. I was a product of tiny Baralaba, southwest of Rockhampton, population 314, a proud bush kid as Queensland as cane toads and XXXX.

The school bell rang. Time to go home. I walked out of the gates of St Brendan’s College, a well-known league school in Yeppoon, when a bus driver called Paul pulled up and hopped off.

A young Corey Oates runs out for the Baralaba Panthers.

One by one, he selectively chose a handful of kids to get on this bus.

“Corey,” he called out to me. “On you get.”

“What for?” I asked him.

“Just grab your footy gear and get on the bus,” Paul replied.

Being the obliging type — aside from the school report cards that said I blabbed too much and distracted others, to the point where teachers sat me front and centre of the classroom —

I didn’t argue with Paul and took my seat.

The bus would turn up once a year. This wasn’t a standard government bus ferrying kids to and from school.

It was the Broncos Bus — a mobile development tool of Queensland’s mighty flagship NRL club which helped identify, educate and recruit a truckload of rugby league talent scattered through the state.

Oates training in 2012 — he obviously had the talent.

I had no idea whether I was meant to be on this bus. But Paul told me to get on, and when I got off, I found myself doing drills and playing a game at a development camp with other Broncos hopefuls.

I must have done all right, because I soon found myself in possession of a Broncos scholarship.

It was like Christmas.

My head was spinning.

Had the Broncos secretly identified me? Was I always part of some succession plan? Should I have even been on that bloody bus?

The bus took Oates to places he could never had dreamt of.

I will never know for sure, but I’m forever grateful I took the mystery ride which eventually delivered me to Red Hill, a destination I had hoped to reach from earliest footballing years.

From the age of five, I loved sport. I dabbled in a bit of tennis and golf (my grandfather apparently helped design the Baralaba golf course) and I didn’t mind cricket. I once smashed 121 off 62 balls — blocking was not my forte — and I was a decent swing bowler, too.

I used my height to good advantage, but control was an issue. I hit a few too many batsmen in the melon with beam balls and decided it was time to get serious about one sport.

I traded the six-stitcher for a Steeden.

Some blokes were just born to be Broncos.

My folks would say my personality is suited to league.

As a kid, I was nuts, lively, always on the go. I remember when I was seven, I went flying off a trampoline like a Russian Olympic gymnast and split my head open. There was blood everywhere. We rushed to the local hospital. The nurses tried to super glue the gash together and one of their gloves ended up getting stuck to my head.

I once broke my arm swinging off an outdoor lounge at a lawn bowls club and my mates and I would leap into the local creek and swim with the current.

Given my love for the outdoors, I wasn’t a huge watcher of rugby league. The most vivid memory I have is of the 2006 grand final between the Broncos and Melbourne. I was 12. Because I was a fullback then, my hero was Darren Lockyer. When the Broncos pulled off an upset and Locky held up the NRL premiership, for a moment, I began to dream.

My transition from school to Red Hill was lightning fast. For four days, I partied on the Gold Coast at schoolies. The next day, I was training with Brisbane’s under-20s and moving into the Broncos development house.

Over the years, you come to appreciate the importance of the Broncos to the Queensland people. The history of the club is massive and it’s just a huge honour to play for them.

I must admit I never expected to get a Broncos contract, but now I’m here, I count myself as one of the lucky ones.

Every time I run onto Suncorp Stadium, I look up into the sea of faces … wondering which kid will be the next to get onto the Broncos Bus.

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