A year can make or break a rugby league career. Just look at the likes of rookie half Ash Taylor and backrower Joe Tapine. Twelve months ago they were practically unknown, toiling away in reserve grade, only a handful of first-grade games between them. Now, one stands as the Dally M Rookie of the Year, the other a Kiwi international. A year made their career. For Akuila Uate, a year broke it.
Newcastle’s all-time leading try scorer was released in October by the Knights in a trade deal that saw the flying Fijian move to Brookvale, with the Knights receiving lock forward Jamie Buhrer in return. It was a sad end to Uate’s glittering career at Newcastle, which saw him earn caps for Country, Fiji, New South Wales and Australia, as well as earning three consecutive Dally M Winger of the Year awards.
His 110 tries in 161 matches for the Knights make him Newcastle’s highest ever try scorer, breezing past club legend Timana Tahu, who registered 93 four-pointers for the club. Uate’s eventual exit from the club was made clear to him after he failed to feature in the NRL after round 10 this season – head coach Nathan Brown dropping him to reserve grade following a streak of poor form in first-grade.
Uate will form an all-representative right edge with the Sea Eagles, with Daly Cherry-Evans, Marty Taupau and Dylan Walker all lining up alongside the Fijian. The recruitment of the Australian international is the cherry on top of another aggressive recruitment campaign by Manly, snaring five-eighth Blake Green, winger Jonathan Wright and backrowers Shaun Lane and Curtis Sironen.
The long list of recruits will be expected to help Manly dig themselves out of a hole after finishing 2016 in 13th place, their lowest finish since the 2004 season. Uate’s career in the maroon and white start with Manly beginning their 2017 campaign at Brookvale Oval on March 5, against bitter rivals the Parramatta Eels.