Newcastle rugby union: Uini brothers add size to Merewether’s finals ambitions

HARD YARDS: Turi Uini carts the ball up against Nelson Bay. He and younger brother, Frank, have key roles to play in the Greens’ finals drive. Picture: Stewart HazellBY his own admission Frank Uini wasn’t doing a great deal when older brother, Turi,suggested they take up an opportunity to move to Newcastle and play for Merewether.

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Turi, 24, had not long returned from England where he played semi-professionally at Tunbridge-Wells.

Frank, after playing for the Melbourne Rebels under-20s in the national final against Queensland Reds in 2016, was working afternoon shift and playing lower grades for Melbourne club Moorabbin.

That was in late June. Fast forward two months and the siblings now shape as key men in the Greens’ drive for a premiership.

Loosehead Turi was one of Merewether’s best in the 14-10 loss Hamilton last round

He and Frank, who stands 187 centimetres and weighs160 kilograms, more than held their own against the powerhouse Hamilton scrum.

Frank, who is still well short of peak fitness and has played mainly second grade, was replaced with 20 minutes remaining. Bang. The Greens scrum went in reverse.

And with regular tighthead Wendall Wilson out for the season, the brothers will have big roles to play, starting with the elimination semi-final against Maitland at No.2 Sportsground on Sunday.

“This time of year, the set piece is crucial to everything you do,” Merewether co-coach Mick Gill said. “You only had to look at our last 10 minutes against Hamilton to see how vital it is.”

Merewether started the season with ample cover in the front-row. But the departure of James Api combined with injuries and work commitments to other senior players left L-platers Nikolas Sykiotis, SebCutts-Jones and Cody Cody Fenwick to shoulder the load.

“We were asking a bit much of theyoung blokes coming into grade from colts,” Gill said. “In the end it became a duty of care thing.We got in contact with Turi through a rugby recruitment website.He was keen to move up here and try something new. He said he could bring his brother and that he had played under-20s for the Melbourne Rebels.We got two birds with one stone.”

Turi also represented Victoria from under-14s to 20s.

“I had never been here before,” said Turi, who along with partner Lisa and daughter, Kamila, 3, plan to settle in Newcastle.“Everyone said it was a nice place but I didn’t know where it was on the map.They needed front-rowers and gave me a call. It is the best move I have made.”

Frank hopes the move is a springboard for a return to the representative level.

“I was playing in Melbourne but I did afternoon shift so I wasn’t going to training,” Frank said. “I just rocked up to the games. I wasn’t really serious about it. I thought if I came to Newcastle I could change lifestyle and try to get fit again.”

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