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Home truths keep Togatuki grounded as she prepares for Origin debut

A humble upbringing in Sydney's west, which included her family at one stage being homeless, is enough for Sarah Togatuki to stay grounded before her maiden State of Origin appearance on Friday.

Growing up in Tregear with her siblings and parents Moegagogo and Atagai, who moved from New Zealand to Australia before Togatuki was born, the 23-year-old NSW forward was recently told of some home truths that helped turned her mindset around.

After falling out of contention with the Dragons last year, Togatuki switched to the Roosters and became a mainstay on the edge under coach Jamie Feeney.

Her performances have been rewarded with Origin selection off the bench for NSW coach Andy Patmore after falling short in recent attempts due to mixed form and injury.

She shared her story with her NSW teammates in camp last week in the lead-up to the Sunshine Coast clash.

Blues forward Sarah Togatuki in camp at the Sunshine Coast.
Blues forward Sarah Togatuki in camp at the Sunshine Coast. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"It was emotional talking to the girls about why we play the game, coming from Western Sydney we pride ourselves on culture and some struggles," Togatuki told NRL.com.

"When we first came here to Australia, Mum would always tell me how hard it was. We never had a house and would use a trolley to carry our clothes around instead of a luggage bag.

"My mum's family were quite stable so we moved in with them. I try not to take things for granted when I come into camp.

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"I'll see girls eating food they're used to growing up with and that's something I've never had so whenever an opportunity comes up like this I really make the most of it.

"I know we get paid a little bit of money for this so I see it as putting food on the table for my family.

"Mum just gave me that talk that footy isn't everything and a lot of families are out there doing it tough and you're out there playing and living a dream little girls will want to do.

"She just said to have some more gratitude in life."

Togatuki will follow in the footsteps of her brother Rocky, who was in the NSW under-18 system in 2017, when she runs out for the Blues, although she's eager to make the family name her own in rugby league.

And if things went a little bit differently as a child growing up, Togatuki's first name would be called differently by commentators this week.

 
 
 
 
 
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Never thought I would make a dream come true this soon!! Grateful for the opportunity and blessing #G2G Mark 9:23 Everything is possible for one to believe.

A post shared by Sarah Togatuki Nogotau (@sairatogatuki) on

"My name was actually meant to be Sydney, after the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1997 when we moved to Australia," Togatuki said.

"But Mum made a mistake filling out some forms so we go with Sarah now and it went onto my citizenship. It's not a name you'd probably think an islander would have and I keep it."

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The fiery back-rower will join Shaylee Bent as the latest debutantes to emerge from western Sydney and hopes an influx of talent from the area can be identified.

"Hopefully it sheds a light that we are paving the way for the Western Sydney girls," she said.

"Sometimes I feel like the talent does get overlooked. Hopefully a lot of girls can aspire. In the end we are trying to expose the game to show this is as the big stage."