Uate's Origin gamble pays off - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Uate's Origin gamble pays off

Steve Jancetic 21/05/2011 04:59:52 PM Comments (0)

Akuila Uate's heart-wrenching decision to turn his back on representing his native Fiji to chase a State of Origin dream will finally pay dividends on Wednesday night.

At a packed Suncorp Stadium against the best Queensland has to offer, Uate will pull on a sky blue Origin jumper for the very first time.

For the young man from the tiny Votua Village on Fiji's Coral Coast - just a stone's throw away from Namatakula where Lote Tuqiri was born - he will have finally made rugby league's big stage.

"I'm still speechless from getting picked in the Origin side," Uate said of the emotion he felt on his selection for the series opener.

"It's all from the hard work and all the support from my family.

"The whole family's excited and can't wait to see me get out on the field on Wednesday night."

Uate's path to the NSW side wasn't without its obstacles however, with the 23-year-old forced to forgo representing his nation of birth if he wanted to play for the Blues.

He was in line to play for Country Origin in 2010 until NSW Rugby League boss Geoff Carr informed selectors he was not available for selection, having played for Fiji in the 2009 Pacific Nations Cup.

That tournament was the last time Uate pulled on the Fijian national jumper, but it was five years earlier that the seed of representing NSW had first been planted.

It was the occasion of the first Origin match Uate had ever attended, the 2004 series decider in Sydney - Brad Fittler's Blues swansong.

"The first Origin I ever went to was Freddy Fittler's last game," Uate recalled.

"I was only young, I was still playing for Woy Woy Roosters back then.

"It was intense and exciting to watch - them beating the Queensland team, it was awesome."

Two years later he was back at Homebush, this time on the wing for the NSW under 19s in the curtain raiser to the 2006 series opener - the beginning of the end for NSW as the first of five straight series defeats.

Running out alongside Uate that night were the likes of Jarryd Hayne, Jarrod Mullen, Krisnan Inu and Manly juggernaut Tony Williams, while wearing the Maroon on the other side were Israel Folau, Junior Sa'u, Joel Moon and South Sydney man-mountain David Taylor.

On Wednesday night Uate will have Mark Gasnier on his inside, a prospect he is relishing.

"He's been teaching me heaps," Uate said of his right edge partner.

"He's a freak - I'm still looking forward to training more with him on my side ... I'm excited, seeing that flick pass (come my way)."

And cheering on his every move will be a large contingent back in Votua - his mum, sister and one of three brothers included.

They'll have to go down to the local hotel to catch a glimpse of rugby league's latest star, but his presence could be enough to turn a few Fijian's the way of the Blues, the island nation having been largely on Queensland's side over the years thanks to the presence of Tuqiri and another favourite son in Petero Civoniceva.

"Maybe a little bit," Uate said of the Blues getting some more Fijian support.

"They'll be excited.

"I rang Mum and they said they can't wait to watch ... everyone will be excited and will be jumping up and down."

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