TURI Uini had all but given up playing rugby when convinced to make a fresh start in Newcastle at Merewether 12 months ago.
Now at the Blacks, the loosehead prop represented Samoa last month and has signed a one-year professional deal at Italian second-tier club Vicenza.
The 25-year-old flies out on September 17, a day after the NHRU grand final. Younger brother Frank, who also came up from Melbourne, has a gig in Germany at TV Pforzheim.
“It has been a big few months,” said Uini, who played off the bench for Samoa in a 33-5 loss to the Western Force last month. “When I got back to Melbourne from England (where he played for Tunbridge-Wells) I had pretty much given up footy. Coming to Newcastle has paid off.”
Uini spent eight weeks with the Samoa squad, culminating in the clash against the Force.
“Once I got called into the Samoan team it opened up doors,” he said. “They helped me get ready for the next level. We trained eight times a week. I lost 20 kilograms. The Force game was another level. The pace was so quick and the Force scrum just didn’t move.”
Uini will be accompanied to Vicenza, which is an hour west of Venice, by partner Lisa and daughter, Kamila, 4.
Before departing he has a job to do for Maitland, who are chasing their first premiership since 1999.
“We have to worry about this week first,” Uini said. “We need to correct our mistakes and not give away as many penalties.”