KNIGHTS winger Aku Uate looks certain to miss the game against the Bulldogs at Hunter Stadium on Sunday due to an ankle injury suffered in Newcastle’s 44-14 loss to the Raiders at Canberra Stadium last weekend.
Uate’s left ankle was in a protective CAM Boot at the launch of the club’s Captains Foundation at Mayfield yesterday, and he was overheard saying he did not expect to play against the 2012 minor premiers on Sunday but should miss only one game.
That will leave the three-time Dally M winger of the year with just one more NRL game, against the Warriors in Auckland on Sunday week, to convince NSW coach Laurie Daley he is worth picking for the first State of Origin game at ANZ Stadium on June 5.
Daley will announce the Blues team for Origin I on Sunday night, May 26, a few hours after full-time in the Warriors-Knights game.
Injuries to Brett Stewart and Brett Morris opened the door for a possible recall for Uate, who was dropped from the Origin decider last year after playing five straight games for the Blues.
But the Fijian-born flyer had an unhappy afternoon under the high ball against Canberra and would need a big game against Warriors wrecking ball Manu Vatuvei to force his way into the Blues’ back line for Origin I.
Kevin Naiqama will be Uate’s likely replacement on the right wing outside Dane Gagai and is expected to train with the team today.
Naiqama is yet to play an NRL game this year but was a stand-out filling in for the injured James McManus at the end of last season, scoring seven tries in a six-game stretch that earned him a new one-year contract.
A certainty for Fiji’s World Cup squad this year, 24-year-old Naiqama is unsigned beyond this season and the Knights would struggle to keep him if another club makes him a reasonable offer.
Coach Wayne Bennett dropped left centre Timana Tahu to the NSW Cup team after the heavy loss to the Raiders and named former Roosters outside back Joey Leilua in his place. It is understood Bennett is not contemplating giving Tahu a reprieve.
Origin cloud for Gidley, Page 52
SIDELINED: Aku Uate