Akuila Uate could be excused for seeking advice about playing centre for Fiji on Saturday night from Manly team-mate Dylan Walker.
Uate will wear the number four jersey in Fiji’s opening match of the Rugby League World Cup against the USA at Townsville Stadium. He has already played 11 Tests for Fiji and in two World Cups for his native country. The last time he played in the centres for Fiji was in 2006.
Melbourne’s try-scoring sensation Suliasi Vunivalu will play outside of Uate.
Uate’s selection follows a superb first season at the Sea Eagles under Coach Trent Barrett, who knew the experienced international still had plenty to offer after a few lean years at Newcastle.
The 30-year-old scored 14 tries in 24 games, averaged 112 metres in runs, and made 86 tackle breaks to win the hearts of the Manly faithful.
And the man who benefitted the most was Walker with the pair forming one of the most deadly right side partnerships in the NRL.
“I give all of the credit to Dylan. All I had to do was catch the ball and put it over the line. I have the easy job. He does all the hard work inside me,’’ a humble Uate said.
“Throughout my career, I have played alongside a lot of great centres, and I put ‘Walkz’ down as one of them. He is only young, but he is one of the best.
“I put the success down to our friendship outside of footy.
“We always rip each other and the boys at times think we don’t like one another (laughing), but when it comes to football, we have that ability to be able to concentrate and do our best.
“It took me three rounds to ‘click’ on the field with Dylan. That was more about me working harder, not him. It was more knowing where he is every time and where he runs. I had to study that.
“Our combination worked well and we still have a lot to improve on. Next year, it will be even better.”
Walker, the Dally M Centre of the Year, said he admires the energy his good mate brings to the team.
“When you think about ‘Choc’, you think about a happy person. He makes it enjoyable for me coming to training and even on the field,'' Walker said.
"He has all this energy and he is just a good character to have around the club.
"Some people probably thought that his career was done at Newcastle when he joined Manly, but he proved them wrong. He enjoyed one of his best seasons after overcoming so much adversity.
“It is a credit to Akuila as to how he has come back and fought it. He is one of the guys I look up to.
“Some of the tries he scored were amazing. The ones against the Wests Tigers and the Gold Coast Titans was him at his best. He got into the back field and his footwork and speed was second to none.
“He is one of those freakish players who have a real good knack of the game and his instincts are very good.”