Newcastle legend expects Uate bounce-back
After a couple of indifferent years for the Newcastle Knights, off-contract winger Akuila Uate realises he has to deliver in 2016 according to club legend and former teammate Adam MacDougall.
Still based in Newcastle – and still having plenty to do with his ex-teammate Uate – MacDougall believes confidence is crucial for the former New South Wales and Australia international.
With a nagging knee injury impacting his past two seasons, MacDougall is confident the 28-year-old still has it in him to rediscover the form he showed earlier in his career.
"I spend a lot of time with Aku, I went to his wedding in the off-season and it's the leanest I've seen him. He's certainly looking a lot fitter and healthier, and he's happy again," MacDougall told NRL.com.
"His body is finally sound, and that's an interesting thing about any athlete or footballer. Once your body is healthy, you're happy and you're confident.
"There's no secret in our sport, in terms of what comes first the chicken or the egg, the thing that comes first in rugby league is confidence and that comes from having a sound body.
"Aku is a competitor and he set the world on fire earlier in his career. Sure he's dropped off a little bit but you don't lose that ability either. It gets put on hold sometimes for different reasons and I'm sure he'll bounce back."
While there's no doubt Uate will be picked for Newcastle's season opener against the Titans, the internal competition from the club's outside backs will add further motivation for him to perform.
The pressure will continue to build on the Knights' all-time leading try-scorer if he isn't to perform under new coach Nathan Brown, and it's an environment MacDougall expects the three-time Dally M Winger of the Year to thrive in especially with his future on the line.
"He's on good money and unfortunately, through no fault of your own, you come under a lot pressure. There's a whole heap of responsibility that comes with that," MacDougall said.
"Clubs aren't happy when you're injured, you get put under a lot of pressure. They sit there and start scratching their heads and go 'hang on, we could pay a young kid a fifth of what he's on and he's not even on the field'.
"So when you're on the field you have to deliver big time and Aku knows that. Aku's playing for not only his own future but his family's future. He's looking very lean and mean, and I'm expecting him to really aim up this year."