Toyota Cup : Uiti Baker the Gentle Giant
Standing at an imposing 193 centimetres and weighing in at 112 kilograms you wouldn’t blame the little girl who was timid in her approach for an autograph to Uiti Baker.
Little did she realise though that despite his daunting presence and the pain he inflicts to others out on the football field, Baker is one of the most warm and friendly people you could meet.
“It was pretty funny actually,” said Baker.
“A lot of the fans get surprised when they talk to me after seeing me play. One guy came up to me after a game and said his little daughter was a bit shy to speak to me cause of my size but after speaking to me he actually got his little daughter to come up to me and I signed her book and she loved it.”
Having moved joined the Raiders via the Melbourne Storm at the start of the year, the Wainuiomata Lions junior has settled into life in the ACT comfortably and has made a big impact at the Raiders both on and off the field, as coach David Hamilton attests to.
“He’s fitted in really well and is just a really nice kid. He mixes well with people which I think is a good trait to have.”
“When someone new comes into the squad he’ll always go up and say hello to them, especially with those young blokes that came in. That’s just his personality though, he’s always keen to help someone out. He’s definitely a bit of a gentle giant off the field.”
On the field though, Baker is as intimidating as they come.
“You’ve only got to look at the bloke to see how big he is,” said Captain Matt McIlwrick.
“He’s a big, tough, intimidating front-rower and he brings a lot of go-forward for us through his hard running. He is a bit of a gentle giant off the field but I wouldn’t want to be standing in front when he’s running at you on it.”
“He reminds me a bit of David Shillington actually. Shill’s one of the nicest blokes you’ll ever meet and then you see him running over blokes on the field just like Uiti so people do get a bit surprised when they talk to him.”
Baker has improved his fitness this year and the results are evident on the paddock with the Under 18s New Zealand representative averaging just over one hundred metres per game.
This has meant cutting down some of the guilty pleasures out of his diet.
“Growing up I wasn’t really into the Island foods, I was more into eating Junk Food," Baker said with a chuckle.
“I’ve changed my diet now though and I’ve been doing extra sessions with Woody [Strength and Conditioning Coach Leigh Woodbridge] to improve my fitness.
Whilst fitness has always been an element Baker has needed to work at, he has found an ally in a fellow member of the front rower’s union.
“Dave Shillington has been helping me out with that,” Baker said. “We usually go on long walks and grab a light breakfast together and talk about the little things in regards to life and my game.”
Baker’s attitude, coupled with the tremendous environment provided by the Raiders, has former Kiwi coach Frank Endacott tipping big things from the 19 year old.
"He has all the attributes – physicality, off-loading ability, a good one-on-one hit and the right attitude to make it. He is a raw New Zealand talent who could end up in a Jeff Lima mould.”
The Raiders’ Toyota Cup takes on the Melbourne Storm this Saturday at 11:45am at Canberra Stadium and McIlwrick will be looking to his front-rower to lead from the front.
“The game will be won in the forwards so if Uiti can step up and run rampant over their forwards it’ll give us the best shot at winning it.” Source: raiders.com.au