Akuila Uate has spent a decade in the NRL plying his trade on the wing, but impressive form in the centres for Fiji at the Rugby League World Cup could see a positional change on the cards next season.
After being dubbed ‘Akuila the thriller’ early in his career, Uate’s form fell away in the last few years as his confidence shrunk, spending the majority of 2016 in NSW Cup.
But this year saw Uate return to form for the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, scoring 14 tries in 24 games as he formed a lethal right edge combo with Dylan Walker.
Playing at left centre for Fiji, Uate set up one of the tries of the tournament against Wales, running through countless players before an up-and-around pass for Marcelo Montoya to score in the corner.
While names like Jarryd Hayne and Suliasi Vunivalu have stolen the headlines for his country, Uate’s hard running has been invaluable for his team, averaging over 17 metres with every run so far in the World Cup.
The move would see youngster Brian Kelly move to the wing, with Matt Wright and Jorge Taufua to battle it out for the other wing spot, as well as eliminating the occasional struggles Uate has faced under the high ball in recent times.
While he debuted in the centres for the Newcastle Knights in 2008, that would be the only NRL game Uate would ever start in the centres, shifting a few feet wider to wing for his next 184 NRL games, finding a permanent home there.
At 30 years of age, a positional move could be just what Uate needs to complete he career rejuvenation the flying Fijian went on this year.
With Blake Green no certainty to remain on the Northern Beaches next year, we’re yet to see who will line-up in the five-eighth role for Manly and form a potential left edge combination with Aku Uate and backrower Frank Winterstein.
Akuila Uate will look to continue his strong form into the Rugby League World Cup’s finals before returning for pre-season in Brookvale shortly after the Christmas break.