The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

Call on Oates to finals run

- PETER BADEL @badel_cmail

WAYNE Bennett faces one of the toughest calls of his career, with Corey Oates and Lachlan Maranta locked in a Broncos selection battle that could cost one man a premiershi­p ring.

Bennett hailed Oates as a potential X-factor in the finals after his 95m solo try in Brisbane’s 47-12 away win over Souths on Thursday night.

The 105kg utility back from Biloela caught a kick ricochet and sprinted 65m before using a brutal right-hand fend to hold off Souths rival Dylan Walker and crash over.

Oates’ impact threatens to palm Maranta into touch, with the duo to vie for the left-wing berth for Brisbane’s upcoming finals campaign.

Maranta, 23, is Brisbane’s leading tryscorer in 2015 with 15 from 19 games and also has the most line-breaks (15), but was rested a fortnight ago after a 32-6 win over the Dragons.

That opened the door for Oates, who charged for a career-best 227m in the Broncos’ mauling of the Rabbitohs.

Bennett has used Oates off the bench at times this season and could possibly relegate him to accommodat­e Maranta on the left flank in the playoffs.

But after watching Oates tear through the premiers at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium, Bennett could be reluctant to change a winning team.

Should the Broncos break their nine-year title drought without Maranta, it would be a crushing outcome given his hot form this season.

Bennett moved to play down the hype swirling around Oates but said the 20-year-old was a special talent.

“Don’t give him a wrap, don’t let him out of the cage,” Bennett said when asked about Oates’ try that rocked Souths.

“He’s a wonderful athlete, you just have to look at him.

“It’s as good a try as you will see. No one was expecting it, least of all the opposition.

“Corey is playing well and we need him to play well. He makes a difference.’’

Broncos skipper Justin Hodges, a member of Brisbane’s 2006 premiershi­p team, warned the squad not to be satisfied with the thrashing of South Sydney.

“The pleasing thing is we are winning the games we need to,” he said.

“We will face a lot of challenges over the next few weeks so we have to make sure we do the little things right.’’

Bennett recently told The Sunday Mail how some home truths during the pre-season had extracted the best from Oates.

“Corey has got it all but he needs to be more persistent,” Bennett said.

“Corey needed to change his attitude to some things.

‘‘I didn’t order him to get off the drink but I said ‘Being on the drink is not going to get you to where you want to get’. “It was his decision. ‘‘I’ve noticed a changed in him in the past few months.’’

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