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Injury scare won't stop Staggs fulfilling Origin dream

Kotoni Staggs sent an injury scare into the Blues camp on Thursday but after fearing he would never get the chance to fulfil his childhood Origin dream the Broncos star won’t let the pain of a dislocated finger impact on his performance in next Wednesday night’s series opener at Accor Stadium.

Staggs suffered the injury during a tackling drill, and he was in discomfort after the session as it took about five minutes for NSW medical staff to get the ring finger on his left hand back in place.

However, the 23-year-old centre, who trained alongside Tongan team-mate Daniel Tupou on the NSW right edge, has worked too hard on turning his life around to let the hand injury affect his Origin debut.

"I loved Origin and it is something I wanted to do as a young kid so being here now is unreal.”
"I loved Origin and it is something I wanted to do as a young kid so being here now is unreal.” ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

After being warned last year by NRL CEO Andrew Abdo that he was jeopardising his career following a series of off-field incidents, Staggs has made a concerted effort to mend his ways and the rewards are obvious in the form he has displayed for the Broncos this season and his Origin call-up.

“I wouldn’t say that I had blown my chances away, but I knew that I had to turn myself around off the field,” Staggs said.

“I was making some silly decisions, but it wasn’t who I was. I just had to take a look at myself and tell myself I am better than that, and I can change so that I can do what I love doing and play good footy.”

A proud Wiradjuri man, Staggs grew up in Wellington and was raised by his grandmother Dawn.

Blues medical staff treat Staggs dislocated finger
Blues medical staff treat Staggs dislocated finger ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

A Wellington Cowboys junior, Staggs dreamed of playing Origin for the Blues but his first senior representative jersey was for Tonga, whom he is eligible through his US-based father Kotoni.

“My family is still in Wellington, some are in Brisbane and I have also got a heap of Tongan family here in Sydney, as well as in Tonga, and in America too,” Staggs said.

“My old man lives in America now. I didn’t meet my dad for a long time, and it is just something I wanted to do. He flew over and I met him after I played for Tonga.

“This means a lot to my family. They have been a massive part of my journey and my life. It is something I can give back to my family and make them proud.

“I am a proud Indigenous boy who grew up in Wellington. I loved footy, I loved Origin and it is something I wanted to do as a young kid so being here now is unreal.”

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Staggs was at Eagle Farm races last Saturday when he received the call from NSW coach Brad Fittler telling him he had finally been selected for the Blues after being on the verge several times in the past.

While he didn’t back a winner at the races, the news was far better and Staggs was emotional as he told his family.

“Straight away I was pretty proud and emotional,” he said. “What came to my mind was the journey for me to get here and the sacrifices I had to make.

“It just sunk in that all the hard work I have put in has paid off; doing the right things off the field and not doing the things you shouldn’t do, being mindful of my potential and putting all the drama I had off the field behind me.

“It is a dream I have wanted to achieve for a long time.”

The Broncos centre realises that he and the likes of Tyrone Peachey and Blake Ferguson are role models for youngsters in Wellington and he hoped his Origin selection will inspire them to chase their dreams.

“I come from the same community and they probably look up to me so I want to set a good example for the younger ones coming through and I want them to achieve their goals as well,” Staggs said.

“The community back in Wellington and the younger kids coming up don’t get noticed as much down there. Myself, and a few of the other lads from there, are in a position where we can help our community and get our community rolling again.

“We are like a big family there and everyone looks after each other. It is a good position I am in now with what I can do for my community.”

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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