Uele finds fresh focus
THE rowing machine at Cowboys headquarters was Braden Uele’s arch nemesis all summer long.
But after admitting a lack of professionalism was holding him back, a renewed work ethic has paid off for the prop after a serviceable debut in Saturday’s 22- 16 loss to the Roosters.
The 22- year- old ran for 41m and made 12 tackles in his NRL debut as a late replacement for the injured Shaun Fensom ( rib cartilage).
But he may not get many more opportunities in Cowboys colours, if any at all, with talk Cronulla has shown strong interest in the off- contract former Junior Kiwi.
But for now Uele isn’t thinking about his future. It’s all about the present after the Cowboys’ injury toll upfront presented an opportunity.
“A lot of my stuff to work on was defensively and also off the field,” the 114kg youngster said.
“Last year I wasn’t very disciplined off- field and I let myself go. The penny dropped early in the preseason and I was determined to make this my year, and it’s all paid off.
“( It was) diet and applying myself to be a professional footballer. Last year I took a few short cuts and this year I wanted to make my dream a reality.
“Greens ( Cowboys coach Paul Green) had a chat to me early in the year and my preseason was tough; I was 119 or 120 kilos at the start.
“The one thing I remember was having to do a 5km row under 20 minutes every preseason. It was tough but ... it was all for the best.”
It was a brutal initiation for Uele, especially in the second half as the Roosters’ forward leaders took it upon themselves to lift their side after they trailed 16- 6 at the break.
The hosts completed all 21 of their sets in the second half and dominated possession and territory on the back of a 6- 2 second- half penalty count in their favour.
“I definitely felt it in the back of my second stint. My lungs are still burning now,” Uele said. “We spoke during the week about how they’d power through the middle and then shift. I thought we handled it well as the second half went on, but unfortunately they just got too much ball.
“Defensively the speed of the game was a shock but I enjoyed it.”
Uele said he would put his future in the hands of his manager as he focuses on making the most of his unexpected chance.
The Cowboys will be well stocked for front rowers next year with Matt Scott and Pat Kaufusi to both return from season- ending injuries, while Melbourne’s Jordan McLean will also join the club.
“I’ll just leave that stuff to the off field; I need to focus on my footy,” Uele said.
“I don’t like talking about stuff; it just stresses me out.” that