With his first finals appearance looming, Queensland and Melbourne Storm winger Xavier Coates has opened up about leaving the Brisbane Broncos and the prospect of finals footy.
“It was a bit tough up in Brizzy when we weren’t winning games and the media sort of hammering us, and as a young fellow, it did take a bit of a toll on me," Coates told Fox Sports.
“I didn’t really speak about it too much and I sort of just kept it to myself, but when you have that media constantly on your back and you’re a young fella trying to understand the game of NRL and you’re just trying to enjoy your footy, it does take a toll."
Coates debuted for the Broncos in 2019 and played 32 games for the club across a couple of tough seasons under coaches Anthony Seibold and Kevin Walters, including being a part of Brisbane's first ever wooden spoon in 2020.
But since heading south to play in Craig Bellamy's Melbourne Storm outfit Coates has been able to find solace in his football career away from the pressure of rugby league heartland.
“Coming down here, it’s just eased that right off. Obviously down here they’re not big on rugby league, it’s all AFL, so you can sort of live a normal life and just get away from footy.
“If you have a bad game, you can get away from it really well down here in Melbourne. I’m just really enjoying my time down here."
Coates plays the Canberra Raiders in this Saturday's elimination final in Melbourne, but any nerves have been calmed by the words of former Storm great and current Maroons coach, Billy Slater.
"He spoke to us and he just said in the meeting don‘t change anything that you normally do,” Coates continued.
"He said it is a big game. It is finals and if you lose, you’re out of the competition. But he said sometimes you can put too much pressure on yourself and you don’t want to have the mindset that you want to be the standout player out there.
“You just want to do your job, and if you do your job well, and everyone does their job well, then the majority of the time you’re going to win the game.
“Coming down here, I want to become a better person, a better player and ultimately win a premiership. I’m one step closer to that and I get to achieve my first finals game this Saturday.”
Coates has made 16 appearances in purple this year thanks to a mid-season injury sustained in the opening State of Origin match. He's scored 13 tries, including a rare quartet against the New Zealand Warriors on ANZAC day.