Uate feels 'blessed' for opportunity at Manly
NEWCASTLE lost so much faith in Akuila Uate that it dumped his $500,000-a-year backside to NSW Cup and banished him from first-grade training.
No wonder the one-time Australian and NSW powerhouse was contemplating his own creed as injuries and ruthless speculation from fans and media took hold.
Dropped to reserve grade in June by a Knights side headed for back-to-back wooden spoons, an ankle injury ensured there was no farewell to the faithful he bagged 110 tries in front of in nine seasons.
A not-so insignificant number of those same supporters turned on the Fijian flyer, wondering out loud how a rep winger chewing up so much of their salary cap could be so out of form.
A two-year deal - "a blessing" - arrived from Trent Barrett and Manly in October, and he was released from the final year of his commitment to Newcastle.
Uate insists he is still on good terms with the Knights hierarchy and coach Nathan Brown.
"There were moments where you wonder, 'what can I do next?'," a candid Uate said.
"I've got my kids, my family to think of. But every day I'm grateful to be playing rugby league, that's what keeps me going. We're blessed to be playing - that, my kids and my religion are what got me through.
"I wouldn't say I lost faith exactly, but you do question some things. It's just those moments when you need your family, and a lot of my family is in Fiji.
"My kids and my wife, they're the ones that push me through. But with church, I've kind of gone back to how I was as a kid.
"In Fiji, growing up, pretty much everyone in Fiji is very religious, they're right into it, attending, and I'm going back to that, that's what I mean there.
"I'm a totally different person out of it, and this year I'm trying to remember that. Just how lucky I am to get the new start with Manly and this year feels like a good one."
Uate's off-season signing is one a few Sea Eagles fans are sceptical of, especially as the swap deal of sorts resulted in favourite son Jamie Buhrer travelling the F1 in the opposite direction.
It's understandable given the 29-year-old's fall from grace - from three successive Dally M winger of the year awards between 2010 and 2012 to an incredibly well-paid reserve-grader.
But it matters nada to Akuila. He's happy again. His wife and three young kids are settled with him in Narrabeen, which is why moves to overseas rugby and Warrington were ruled out.
He's adjusted his attitude to training and he's firing on all cylinders too, free of the ankle and knee injuries that have plagued him in recent years and slowed his trademark speed.
"Signing with Manly I think is the best thing I've ever done," Uate said in preparation for the All Stars clash on Friday.
"I needed that change. I had been in Newcastle for too long. It wasn't a hate thing or anything like that, just some days you do have to move on with your life.
"The thing I've changed is I'm just really working hard.
"Whatever I was in Newcastle, I've moved it up to the next level ... last year it was taking longer than it should have for me to recover and first-grade is all about recovering and performing in the next game, then the next game.
"It did get me down. but now I feel the fittest I've ever been, I'm injury free. The knees and ankle are good. I'm really excited for the year.
"Baz and the trainers have really looked after me, I get along with all the boys.
"I'm truly blessed for the opportunity I've got with Manly.
"I'm happy again, I've just got to train hard and get that round-one spot."