HE is one of only a handful of players NSW coach Ricky Stuart described as an automatic selection for the first State of Origin game in Melbourne in a fortnight.
But barnstorming Knights flyer Aku Uate is looking no further than Newcastle’s game against North Queensland at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night, and he is determined to get more involved than he did in their 24-6 loss to the Roosters at Allianz Stadium last Sunday.
The world’s best winger ran just 11 times for 96 metres, making one tackle break and no line breaks.
Uate has averaged 14.5 runs, 133 metres and 3.4 tackle breaks a game this season, but he was unable to make an impact against the Roosters.
He said Newcastle’s inability to control possession and establish field position made it difficult for him and fellow winger James McManus to share the ball-carrying load with their forwards.
‘‘I normally come in every set but it’s too hard when Mullo [playmaker Jarrod Mullen] wants the ball and everyone else wants to get involved as well, so it was too hard for me and Jimmy to come in and get a few touches,’’ Uate said.
‘‘Sometimes we’re in there all day, but on the weekend it didn’t go our way.
‘‘We just need to hold the ball. That’s pretty much the whole thing ... We didn’t complete any sets, so it was a bit frustrating.’’
Uate was to have been one of three Knights players picked for the Blues on Sunday night, but captain Kurt Gidley needs season-ending reconstructive shoulder surgery and deputy Danny Buderus is sidelined with Achilles tendonitis and is unavailable for the May 23 series-opener.
Barring injury against the Cowboys, or a bolt from the blue by selectors, that will leave Uate and fullback Darius Boyd as Newcastle’s only Origin representatives at Etihad Stadium.
Though he has been below his best in his first season at the Knights, Boyd will be named on Queensland’s left wing outside centre Greg Inglis, meaning he will go head to head with Uate, the Blues’ right winger, as they did last year.
Uate said he had not spoken to Stuart since the end of the 2011 campaign, which Queensland won 2-1 to extend their record winning streak to six straight series, and was concerned only with putting a smile back on the face of Knights and former Maroons coach Wayne Bennett.
‘‘ ‘‘I’m not really worried about the Origin yet,’’ he said.
‘‘This week is about going out there and getting more involved and showing our crowd that we’re still in the top eight. We don’t want to let them down and we definitely don’t want to let Wayne down.’’ But Uate hopes he gets a chance to help Stuart and the Blues end Queensland’s dominance.
‘‘He knows what he’s doing, and all you’ve got to do is play good footy for your club every week and you get a chance to be a part of the NSW team again this year, hopefully ... but for me this week, it’s Saturday against the Cowboys,’’ he said.
‘‘They’ve got a big forward pack and we need to control that ... and definitely [Johnathan] Thurston is the main man in their team, so we’ve got to control him.’’