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Fiji Time: 6:16 PM on Monday 28 July

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The next Tuqiri

AMIT RAJ
Monday, July 21, 2008

FIJI Bati wing Akuila Uate has been dubbed the next Lote Tuqiri by league legend Mathew Johns after watching the Nadroga youngster's dream NRL debut on Saturday night.

With speed to burn, the 20-year-old sensation scored in the 34th minute for Newcastle Knights but they lost 13-16 to the Sharks at Toyota Stadium.

Uate, however, proved tireless throughout in both defence and attack despite being called in as a late replacement for injured veteran Adam MacDougall.

"He's an excitement machine, no doubt he's the next personality player of the NRL,'' Johns said.

"Brian Smith (Newcastle coach) held him back last year for good reason but there's definitely been an expectation about him for a while now.''

For coach Smith, Uate was the shinning light in his team.

"Aku (Uate) was outstanding, he looked as if he thought he should be there," Smith said.

"He was dynamic, strong and confident. He's got some things to learn but a very encouraging debut. I was very happy for him.

"He's been a very patient young fellow, working hard to become a professional player and he did it,'' he said.

Uate has been seen as an exception in his Brisbane hometown, Hunter, ever since running 10.5secs over 100 metres in the Combined High Schools carnival in 2005 and his boyhood dream was to compete at the Beijing Olympics before opting for rugby league.

He made his Fiji Bati debut against Cook Islands in 2006 during the World Cup qualifiers.

Fiji National Rugby League chairman Peni Musunamasi said Uate's speed made him a special player.

"He runs as if there is no tomorrow. He's a bullet train. Uate showed a lot of promise on his debut as well.''

Musunamasi said Uate was one of the six NRL players to be granted automatic selection in the Fiji Bati world cup squad.

"Also players in the Super League won't have to attend trials. This is the best Fiji Bati team and we are not going there to make the numbers. We are going there to win.''

He said the extended 40-member training squad would be reduced to 23 before October 8.

The Fiji Bati opens its World Cup campaign on November 1 against France.


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