RATED as better than Lote Tuqiri, Newcastle's Fijian flyer Akuila Uate has signed a new deal with the club and will soon see action in the National Rugby League first grade competition.
Uate is yet to play in the NRL but that didn't stop Australian rugby's four Super 14 franchises showing interest in the young winger once dubbed by Matthew Johns as "potentially better than Lote Tuqiri".
But any thoughts of a switch of codes were put on the back-burner when Uate, 20, agreed to a one-year contract extension with the Knights.
The new agreement is a major coup for Newcastle, who recognise his potential but feared his lack of opportunities in the top grade after more than three seasons at the club may have led him to look elsewhere.
But those fears were dispelled yesterday. "We never seriously looked at anything else to be honest,'' Uate's manager Darryl Mather said.
"There was certainly interest from all four rugby provinces and one NRL club had spoken about him with me but we weren't shopping him around at all.''
Asked if Uate was getting itchy feet and losing patience through not getting a crack in the top grade, Mather said: "Not at all. I know there have been suggestions of that but from what he has said to me, that's not the case.
"He hasn't had an opportunity at NRL level yet but he is still working on his game. I think there is some merit in the steady-as-she-goes approach Brian Smith (Knights coach) has taken with him.
"We are just taking the attitude that he needs to become the best player he can be so that he can be ready to go when he finally gets his shot.
"I still believe he can become a real star up there (in Newcastle).''
Uate said he had played rugby union before he left Fiji and would consider a return to the code, but he preferred league and this was a reason for him to sign.