Broncos wary of electric Eel
BRONCOS winger Corey Oates says he is ready to do battle with Origin rival Blake Ferguson on Friday night in what will be the Parramatta winger's first NRL game back since mid-July.
Brisbane host the sixth-placed Eels at Suncorp Stadium on Friday in what shapes to be a crucial clash for the home side to keep their finals hopes alive.
Sitting precariously in eighth spot, the Broncos have four other teams vying for the last qualifying spot ahead of the finals series in a fortnights' time.
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Coach Anthony Seibold has elected to remain with the same 17 players who narrowly went down to the Rabbitohs 22-20 in last week's blockbuster grudge match.
Parramatta however have made several changes, including the return of star winger Ferguson who has sat out the past six weeks with a knee infection.
Oates is all too familiar with Ferguson's ability, having lined up against him in this year's State of Origin series.
The Broncos winger said it made Friday night's match even more challenging with Ferguson's return to the side.
"He'll be a great player for them to come back at this time leading into finals," Oates said.
"It's always a tough game against Fergo, he's a massive competitor. It's pretty hard to get around him or run through him.
"When he does have a little lapse, you try and take it but it doesn't happen too much with him.
"We have to be on our game as an edge but as a whole team too."
Ferguson has been sidelined since a routine knee clean out turned into a major health scare which left the 29-year-old fearing his season was over.
During his recovery, he shed 12kgs before being put on a calorie-heavy diet of fast food to gain back the weight.
But Ferguson, considered one the most damaging outside backs in the game, denies the ordeal has affected his strength, speed or fitness.
"The Eels wouldn't have allowed me to return if I wasn't up to where I was before I got injured," Ferguson said.
"It's a credit to the guys here, they work tirelessly on what I need to do to be at my best.
"I got some good results go my way, thank god they went my way.
"It's always scary. It's my job to play footy and I didn't get to play footy for a while.
"You roll with the punches."
Oates is out to rectify his previous outing against the Eels - a performance which prompted Broncos coach Seibold to give his star winger a spray for playing so poorly.
The 24-year-old Bronco admitted Seibold had given him a "kick up the backside" following the match and has since returned back to form.
"They turned it on against us last game and I don't think it was my best game either," Oates said.
"I've obviously picked up my game since that one. That was one I probably never want to go back to.
"We have to start well this week. They're a team playing with a lot of confidence and energy.
"They can make you pay early if you don't turn up."
Despite heavy criticism over the Broncos spine combination, Seibold has kept the faith with his No.1, 6, 7 and 9.
Sean O'Sullivan will again steer the team around in the halfback role while skipper Darius Boyd remains at five-eighth.