Aku in line for shock return

FORMER NSW and Australian winger Aku Uate is making a rapid recovery from damaged ribs and could be a shock starter for the Knights against the Dragons at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night.

PRIMED: Aku Uate runs at training. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Coach Wayne Bennett said last Wednesday that the three-time Dally M winger of the year could be sidelined for five to six weeks after suffering rib cartilage damage in Newcastle’s 28-12 loss to the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium 10 days ago.

But the Newcastle Herald has been told Uate has improved significantly in the past week and he showed no apparent discomfort at training on Tuesday.

Though he was not included in the 18-man squad Bennett named on Tuesday, Uate will be assessed later in the week and could be a game-day inclusion if he continues to recover at his current rate.

Bennett recalled three former Dragons – Queenslander Darius Boyd and forwards Chris Houston and Neville Costigan – and Knights under-20s captain Adam Clydsdale for the game against the club he coached to the 2010 premiership.

Presuming Boyd backs up after the Origin series-opener at ANZ Stadium tonight, he will start in his regular fullback position.

Kevin Naiqama, who replaced Boyd in the 25-18 loss to Souths last Saturday, was named on the right wing but it is understood he would make way for Uate.

Houston, who was dropped after their 44-14 loss to Canberra on May 12 and has played the past two games in NSW Cup, was named to replace injured back-rower Alex McKinnon (ankle).

Clydsdale and Costigan were named alongside David Fa’alogo, Adam Cuthbertson and Korbin Sims on a five-man bench Bennett will trim later in the week.

Though disappointed about losing McKinnon for the next six to eight weeks, Sims said news of Houston’s return had been well received by the players.

“Howzo’s been playing good footy in ‘reggies’ and he deserves to come back,” Sims said.

Sims, who signed a new two-year contract with the Knights on Monday, said staying in Newcastle would allow him to carve out his own career away from any potential shadow cast by his older brothers, Ashton and Tariq.

The three Sims brothers left the Broncos at the end of 2010 but Ashton and Tariq headed north to the Cowboys and Korbin flew south to link with the Knights.

“Any contract you negotiate is a tough decision but I thought Newcastle gave me a chance three years ago, so I’d better repay the favour and show them a bit of faith like Wayne’s shown me with playing me this year,” he said. “That’s why I came down to Newcastle. Newcastle gave me an opportunity, and I’m just willing to give back to them what they gave to me.

“Our whole family supports each other. I’m supporting my brothers 100 per cent and I know they supported me when I told them about my decision. They were over the moon . . . obviously a bit disappointed but they were very, very happy for me.”

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