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Rugby raiders from Japan are trying to lure NRL stars abroad, including Newcastle Knights' Aku Uate

By Josh Massoud        The Daily Telegraph

Foreign rugby raiders are once again circling the NRL's elite ranks - and the ambush is set to begin with Newcastle Knights flyer Aku Uate.
The NSW Origin excitement machine is among a host of representative players off contract this year; joining Johnathan Thurston, Jarryd Hayne, Robbie Farah, Mitchell Pearce, Jamie Lyon, Matt Scott and Todd Carney on a star-studded list.

Having grown up playing rugby in Fiji and as a schoolboy on the Central Coast, Uate was offered big money from ACT Brumbies and NSW Waratahs to switch back when he was last available, three years ago.
But Japanese and European franchises have since expanded their outlooks, and rugby union sources have confirmed Uate will be in their sights over the coming months.

Uate's agent, Darryl Mather, revealed the Dally M Award winner was open-minded about moving overseas, where he would be able to earn almost double what NRL teams are prepared to offer wingers.
Despite his speed and appeal to fans, Uate's NRL value would be capped at $500,000 a season because influential playmakers such as Thurston and Farah will always command the biggest slice of the

Conversely, Uate could earn about $800,000 a season in Japan or France. That much was confirmed recently when bullocking Panthers winger Josh Mansour - who debuted only midway through last year - was offered about $500,000 to make a Japanese defection.

Mansour's manager Sam Ayoub said the 22-year-old last week decided to knock back the lucrative Japanese offer and spend the next stage of his career in the NRL. Panthers boss Phil Gould is determined to keep Mansour after his impressive rookie season.
"I can confirm we had a very healthy offer from a Japanese rugby club, but Josh has decided to continue in the NRL at this stage," Ayoub said. "He's still young and there's plenty of time for him to make the switch if it appeals later in his career."
Ayoub's future conversations with Gould will have an impact upon the entire 2013 player market - he is also handling negotiations for Thurston.
Seeking to rebuild his club around the game's No.1 half, Gould is preparing a multi-million dollar package that would also secure Thurston's post-football career and make him the face of rugby league in Sydney's west.
Canterbury, Newcastle and New Zealand have also expressed their interest in the Cowboys ace, assuring him of a $1 million-plus salary.
With all their best players off contract, North Queensland appear destined to lose at least one genuine star. At present that looks most likely to be prop and co-captain Matt Scott, who is being chased hard by Parramatta and South Sydney.
With plenty of space under this year's $5.8 million salary cap and the capacity to secure marquee player sponsorships, the Eels will be aggressive bidders.
The financial burden of re-signing Hayne and accommodating Will Hopoate is not expected to stem Parramatta's enthusiasm, with the club earmarking prop and five-eighth as the two key recruitment positions.
Last year's wooden spooners have also been heavily linked to Tigers skipper Farah.
Wests recently made an offer to the NSW Origin rake, but their cause is not being helped by outstanding marquee player payments. The Tigers also have their young halfback Jacob Miller off contract - one of a dozen available playmakers.

Clubs with inexperienced or unsettled halves combinations - Penrith, St George Illawarra and Gold Coast - will surely look to beef up their depth.
Threadbare at the scrum base following Ben Hornby's retirement and Kyle Stanley's season-ending knee injury, the Dragons have made unsuccessful inquiries about Sam Williams, Robert Lui and Daniel Mortimer for 2013.
Their own pivot, Jamie Soward, is also off contract and has previously attracted interest from foreign rugby clubs.
Soward, 28, has confirmed he would be prepared to move overseas at the end of this season.
No formal negotiations can begin until the ARLC and players union conclude their long-winded collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The Daily Telegraph understands three quarters of the 16 clubs have now returned their votes on the draft agreement, which will see the salary cap rise from $5.8 to $7 million over the next five years.
However, 75 percent of the vote is needed for the draft to be approved.
Friday's meeting between player agent representatives and NRL salary cap auditor Ian Schubert even raised the prospect of the entire process having to start over, with one club - believed to be New Zealand - unsupportive of the proposals.

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