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We've all seen the raw power and brilliance of Akuila Uate on the field but this was something else.

Casually chatting away in the unseasonal winter warmth, Uate is relaxed and opening up like never before. 

Normally the Fijian flyer is reluctant when it comes to all things media, even aloof, but on this occasion he is a willing participant.

In his element, even. 

So we get comfortable to listen into one of rugby league's great stories, an inspirational tale from Fiji via Woy Woy to the grand stage of the NRL.

But as Uate points out, it's a yarn that almost didn't eventuate.

Shuffling forward in his chair, he recounts his early days in Australia when his father wanted him to represent Fiji at the Commonwealth Games as a sprinter.

The year was 2004 and Uate was in the Big Smoke of Sydney for a state athletics carnival.  

Surrounded by a bunch of experienced competitors, the stage was set for a race of heavyweight proportions.   

Only problem, Uate wasn't up for all the seriousness. 

You see, prior to this race he'd only ever competed in school carnivals or bear footed at footy training at Woy Woy on the NSW Central Coast.

So the prospect of coming against blokes with all the latest gear and swagger to match wasn't exactly appealing for Uate. 

"It was different seeing everyone prepare for a run and I’m just sitting there eating my meat pies and enjoying my lollies," Uate recalls with a grin. 

"I was looking over my shoulders and everyone is doing their exercises and ready to run.

"They all wanted to come first and I’m just sitting there eating my meat pie, having lunch and just rock up and run.  

"I didn’t take it that serious, but I think my principal and my whole family wanted me to.

"I was just doing it for the fun though.

"I enjoyed representing my school and coming first all the time was probably the best feeling, but then I got to Sydney and it was all nerve-racking." 

It was at this point when Uate knew he couldn't fulfil his father's dream for him to become a sprinting sensation. 

Instead the lad from Fiji chose rugby league as his career path, a sport he had never played prior to arriving in Australia in 2003.   

"I wanted to play rugby union, but league was there in Woy Woy so I thought I might as well go to training with one of the boys," he explains.

"I rocked up at training and I had no boots on, but I just ran around with the boys with no shoes on.

"The club manager came over and said can we sign you to play footy.

"I said yes and started learning how to play and then I got picked up by the Knights at a schoolboy carnival."

Football manager Warren Smiles was that man who signed Uate as a fresh-faced 17-year-old.

Smiles recalls being immediately impressed by the freakish skills and speed of the talented Fijian.   

"There was no question from the beginning that you’ve got to sign this guy," Smiles says.

"For as much as his skill wasn’t great, because he was just raw, his pure athletic ability just outshone everything else.

"You were just blown away, because his speed and acceleration was incredible.

"He is no different now, it’s just he is bigger and doing the same thing at an NRL level.

"I don’t know that I thought he’d go on and play Origin and for Australia, but it was how well he adapted his athletic ability to the game.

"And that’s a credit to his coaches from the juniors right through.

"Craig Sandercock really took him under his wing early on and spent a whole year just getting him to really concentrate well in learning.

"So in the sense of things like video sessions when the coach talks, you need to switch on.  

"That was a big part of his development."

Thanks largely to that tuition; Uate has undertaken one hell of a transformation. 

From the quietly spoken schoolboy to the Origin and Test star, the Knights' flyer is one of the best wingers in the game.

Now he is on the cusp of becoming the leading try-scorer in the Club’s history, requiring just two more tries to surpass Timana Tahu's record of 91 tries. 

Talk to Uate and it's a record that sits close to his heart given his close ties to Tahu. 

"Coming to Australia and Newcastle, I looked up to Timana and always watched his highlights," he says.

"Now with T coming back to the club, it’s awesome to get to know him.

"He is a good bloke, so I’m very honoured to surpass his record.

"I’m just very honoured to be here in Australia though.

"I thank all my family for their support, because they have got me here.

"Now for me to be here in Newcastle and have my own family, playing footy, having kids and loving life is just an amazing experience for me."

On top of his football commitments, Uate is also a passionate family man. 

His wife Samantha gave birth to their second child recently, a baby girl named Miriama Alumeci Uate.

"It’s another girl addition to my family, which I’m 50/50 about because I wanted to have a boy," he jokes.

"But I can’t do anything now. They are both beautiful.

"Every time I go home after a bad day at training, I just see their faces and it just changes everything."

When it comes to happiness, Uate is regularly a picture of positive vibes at training. 

From lightening the mood with a joke or sharing one of his colourful stories, Aku is always reliable for a good laugh. 

"Well you’ve got to be happy every day," he says frankly.

"Even when we’ve lost so many games in the first 10 rounds, you can’t come to training without a smile on your face and be happy.

"There’s no need to be sad and coming to training with your head down every day.

"That’s me, that’s just my personality.

"I also know I'm lucky to get this far in footy and looking back today, it’s just awesome that I did it.

"I’m just happy to be here."