THE winds of change are blowing through Newcastle. The first significant decision made by new coach Brian Smith was to sign virtually the entire competition dominating Jersey Flegg side of 2006 to senior contracts
WHEN a Newcastle Knights scout was sent to see Akuila Uate play for Woy Woy on the NSW Central Coast he reported back: "I have just seen the next Lote Tuqiri".Uate, who placed third in the Australian U-16s 100-metres final a few years ago, is now the fastest player at the Knights, and may soon be the fastest player in rugby league.In 2005 he played just eight games, mostly off the bench, in the Knights SG Ball (U-18s) side, and scored only one try, but the tall, athletic winger sufficiently impressed to be named in the Australian Schoolboys side.During the off season he played and trained with the Fiji A side, and was widely tipped to play for Fiji Bati, but had to withdraw due to preseason commitments for the Knights.This year he has played the first eight games with the Knights' undefeated Jersey Flegg (U-20s) side, and is the top try scorer for the team with seven from eight games.Last week he continued his amazing rise by playing Premier League after just 16 games in the Knights juniors, and scored a try on debut. To cap off his week, he has just been named in the NSW U-19s side to play Queensland in the curtain raiser to State of Origin I.Aku Uate has height, natural athleticism and blazing speed as well as an amazing step. If he continues his outstanding progress he should be an established first grader by 2008, and may well be one of the stars of the World Cup playing for FIJI.
SEIFFERT Oval in Quenbeyan was the venue for this clash.
The last time I attended a match at this venue it was to see Mal Meninga play, and the weather was similar that day ? cold, wet and miserable.
The two sides ?warmed up? in a steady drizzle of icy cold rain, which, thankfully, ceased just after the game kicked off. Despite the rain ceasing, the ball was still slippery, and fingers were still cold and stiff, so handling by both sides really suffered in an otherwise very skilful and entertaining game.
The first try of the game came after a knock on by the Raiders on halfway led to a Knights scrum feed, and the Knights put on a backline movement from the scrum leading to fullback Sam Wooden scoring in the corner. Halfback Luke Walsh converted from the sideline.
For the next ten minutes of the game the Knights were repeatedly threatened the Raiders line but came up with knock ons at crucial times. Luke Walsh knocked on over the line after looking to have gathered in a kick by 5/8 Scott Dureau ? which was to be the first of many mistakes by Walsh for the day.
The next try came when Luke Walsh did a clever short kick on halfway to just behind the Raiders line. The kick was gathered in by centre Alex McCosker who drew the fullback and sent winger Stephen Gordon on a 30 metre run to the tryline. Walsh converted from in front.
The Knights were soon on the attack again, and, for the second time of the day, Luke Walsh knocked on in goal attempting to regather a Dureau kick.
The Raiders then got their first chance to pressure the Knights line, and the Knights held them out, only to knock on from the 20 metre restart and give the Raiders a repeat set. The Raiders scored on tackle three when powerful fullback Jade Williams broke a tackle near the line. Winger Brent Crisp converted.
The Raiders repeated the dose five minutes later when Knights prop Larry Tuafua knocked on near halfway and the Raiders put on a good backline movement from the scrum leading to Williams scoring in the corner. Crisp converted from the sideline.
The Raiders were on a roll and threatened the Knights line several times, but came up scoreless.
A penalty to the Knights gives them a chance to attack, and Walsh partially redeems himself by splitting the defence and scoreing near the posts. He converted his own try.
Both sides had chances to increase their score before halftime, and both sides failed to finish due to poor handling. Knights 18 ? 12 Raiders was the halftime score.
After half time the Raiders were quickly on the attack after more spilt ball by the Knights in their own half, but failed to convert their chances.
Walsh got the Knights out of trouble with a 40 ? 20 kick that found touch on the 10 metre line, but a poor pass to winger Callan Richardson saw him knock on with the line open.
Richardson soon got a chance to redeem himself when Scott Dureau did a perfect kick from 30 out which stopped in the in goal and Richardson won the chase to the ball to touch down. Walsh failed to convert from the sideline.
From the kick off the Knights put on an attacking raid that saw them go the length of the field, with winger Stephen Gordon kicking ahead from 20 out and, for the third time, the ball was knocked on in goal.
For the next ten minutes the Raiders put pressure on the Knights line, but fail to score.
The next try came to the Raiders with a brilliant ?hot potato? effort from 60 metres out, which saw the ball go through several sets of hands till replacement player Brendan Crisp scored. Crisp converted.
The Raiders were on fire from then on, with several great attacking raids held out by the Knights till another great team try by the Raiders from halfway was scored by winger Troy O?Sullivan. Crisp missed the conversion.
With the score on 22 ? 22 both sides had their chances in attack ? only to knock on at crucial times. The Raiders broke the deadlock when given a penalty 20 out and three in from the sideline. Crisp kicked the goal to put the Raiders ahead 24 ? 22.
With minutes remaining Knights captain Scott Dureau seems to have blown all chance of a win by kicking out on the full from the kick off. The Raiders attack the Knights line and force a line drop out.
The Knights took a short kick off in the hopes of having one last go, but the Raiders gather the ball in and are camped on the Knights line with seconds to go in the game.
The final twist in a game that saw end to end attacking action spoilt time after time came with seven seconds left on the clock. The Raiders looked certain to score when a kick was made to the corner where three Raiders were facing on Knights defender, but Knights captain Scott Dureau had other ideas, and charged down the kick, gathered it up, and ran 90 metres to score the match winning try as the siren sounded.
WESTERN Suburbs Magpies V South Sydney Rabbitohs
Eighth placed Western Suburbs are at home to seventh placed South Sydney. The Magpies have been on a very impressive winning streak, with their only recent loss being to equal first placed Sharks in round seven. Souths also have decent recent form, but the Magpies should be able to get the win and leapfrog them on the table.
ROOSTERS V Manly ? Sat 4th, 1.15 PM ? Henson Park
Forth placed Roosters play ninth placed Manly at Henson Park (Roosters home game). The Roosters had a slow start to the season, but have not lost since round seven, while Manly have been in a form slump till last week when they recorded a good win. The Roosters are the team that everyone fears, and should be far too good for Manly.
JERSEY Flegg Cup
NEWCASTLE Jersey Flegg side ? Round 12
8:00pm: Magpies v Tigers @ Campbelltown Stadium
11th placed Magpies are at home to 8th placed Tigers. Both sides have lost their last two games and both recorded wins against modest opposition before that. The Magpies deserve to start favourites as the home side.
WESTERN Suburbs Magpies vs. Canterbury Bulldogs
Campbelltown Stadium 5.30 PM Friday.
Tenth placed Magpies are at home to fifth placed Bulldogs. The Bulldogs have won their last three games and seem to be getting over the injury crises that kept them down in the early part of the season. The Magpies have lost two of their last three. The Bulldogs should have a comfortable win.
Western Suburbs Magpies:
Shannon McDonnell, Ben Yelavich, Aaron Mercer, Dean Collis, Michael Crockett, Ben Roberts, Ryan Borg, Siikeaha Teaupa, Isaac De Gois ?, Ray Cashmere, Chris Paterson, Robert Miles, Nathan Waters. Interchange: Adam Fletcher, Abraham Pritchard, Jarrod Saffy, Richard Parker, Aaron Sweeney. Coach: Steve Georgallis
Trent Cutler, Makasini Richter, Filinga Filiga, Paoa Faamita, Sosaia Makisi, Dallas McIlwain, Isaac Kaufmann, Josh Cale, Daniel Irvine, Charlie Tonga, Ben Czislowski, Nathan Armit, Jason Wells. Interchange: Jarrad Hickey, Chris McGuirk, Darren Brown, Luke Young, Nathan Barry. Coach: Wayne Lambkin
CROWD favourite and Knights Premier League player Dan Spiteri has been given the role of impact player and hooker in the rapidly improving Knights side.