Aku pens new deal at Knights

SO much for Japanese rugby union.
杭州楼凤

After speculation that Knights flyer Akuila Uate would receive an offer too good to refuse to switch codes and countries, he re-signed yesterday with Newcastle for four more years.

It is understood whatever interest big-spending clubs in Japan showed in the representative winger did not crystallise into a deal on the table.

That suited Knights officials, who were happy to make Uate one of their highest-paid players – on a deal believed to be worth in the vicinity of $500,000 a season – but had no intention of entering into a bidding war.

‘‘I said right from the start we were never going to be able to compete with Japanese rugby or French rugby or whoever it was out there,’’ Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said yesterday.

‘‘We put a really fair offer on the table, right from the outset, to make our intentions really clear.

‘‘Then we just sat back and waited. We’re pleased to finalise the deal and have Aku in the red and blue for another four years.’’

Asked if the deal that ties Uate up until the end of the 2016 season would make him Newcastle’s best-paid player, Gidley replied: ‘‘He’s certainly in the top tier.

‘‘We think we got the right value for Aku. He deserves to be in the top bracket of earners in our club.’’

Gidley said the Knights were happy to pay top dollar for Uate’s proven strikepower and drawcard status.

In 90 NRL games, the 25-year-old crowd-pleaser has scored 70 tries. He has been Dally M winger of the year for the past three seasons and played in five Tests for Australia and five Origins for NSW.

‘‘He’s a genuine superstar of our game,’’ Gidley said.

‘‘He’s arguably the best finisher in the game, I believe.

‘‘He scores on average 20 tries a year and there’s not many players can bring that to their club. We’re ecstatic to have him on board.

‘‘He’s come through our junior system and something we want to do is hang on to our best players.’’

Gidley said that in the modern game ‘‘it has never been harder to score tries’’, yet Uate continued to find his way to the line.

‘‘It’s quite amazing, his strike rate,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s up there with the Brett Stewarts and the guys who are wonderful finishers in our game.’’

Uate said last night that he was pleased to be staying with the Knights, who he first joined as a 15-year-old soon after immigrating from his native Fiji.

“I love playing for the Knights and am really happy to stay here for the next four years,” he said. “I can’t imagine playing anywhere else and the decision to re-sign was an easy one.

“Now my future is secured I am even more excited about running on to Hunter Stadium on Monday night.”

Newcastle trained with a depleted squad yesterday minus front-rowers Kade Snowden and Willie Mason, who were unavailable because of personal reasons.

Young tyro Zane Tetevano, named to play in Newcastle’s NSW Cup team this weekend, limped off with a leg injury.

AAP reports: Shaun Johnson’s right elbow might not be 100per cent but he is confident it will stand up to the rigours of the Warriors’ opening match against Parramatta in Sydney on Saturday night.

Johnson, 22, has made an earlier than expected return after hyperextending the joint in the Warriors’ win over Brisbane in a trial in Dunedin on February 23.

Johnson said he did all the contact work during training yesterday.

‘‘Passing is another big thing and that seemed to go all right. From Monday’s field session to today’s field session, I’m feeling a lot more confident about it.’’

Having got the all-clear, he was buoyed by being able to be on deck at the start of the season under new coach Matthew Elliott.

He admitted that with the Warriors having a new hooker in Elijah Taylor and a new five-eighth in Thomas Leuluai, it was less than ideal that he was unable to train last week.

RE-SIGNED: Aku Uate at training yesterday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

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