Origin audition that could seal Staggs’ Blues spot
KOTONI Staggs is on NSW coach Brad Fittler's radar as the Broncos strike weapon prepares for the ultimate Origin audition against former Blues ace Michael Jennings in the NRL season relaunch.
Fittler will be watching closely when the lethal Staggs partners veteran Darius Boyd in the Broncos centres for Thursday night's blockbuster against Parramatta at Suncorp Stadium.
Staggs resumes the season as the form centre of the competition after his ruthless three-try demolition of South Sydney in Round 2 before the COVID-19 saga forced the NRL's shutdown.
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Now Staggs is back on centre stage at Suncorp - and his dream of an Origin debut faces a true litmus test when he marks up against Eels star Jennings, an 18-game Origin speedster.
When the Origin series was launched in February, Fittler lauded the brilliance of Staggs, who was named in NSW's extended squad in December.
Fittler will be keeping a close eye on Staggs in his showdown with Jennings as the Broncos look to avenge last year's 58-0 finals debacle against the Eels.
"I am a huge fan of Kotoni, he has played for Tonga but he is eligible for us," the NSW coach said.
"Brisbane last year had five or six players who were eligible for NSW and that's never happened before.
"We've had Staggs down a couple of times (to NSW camps). I love the way he plays, he is wholehearted ... he can play three or four positions."
Following his hat-trick of tries against South Sydney earlier this year, Staggs said he wanted to impress the Blues selectors with his form this season.
"That was my dream as a little kid, to wear that blue jersey," said Staggs, who made his Test debut for Tonga last June.
"When I'd watch (State of Origin) it was always something I wanted to play.
"I didn't even think about Australia or Tonga growing up. It was always the Blues.
"That is what I want to chase this year and hopefully if I can keep playing consistent footy, 'Freddy' (NSW coach Brad Fittler) is watching."
It comes after Staggs' meteoric rise in the NRL, having been Brisbane's bench utility option just over 12 months ago.
Now the 21-year-old tackle busting machine has become the Broncos strike weapon on their lethal right edge.
He said securing the Broncos starting centre spot made him realise his standing as being among the best players at Red Hill.
"After I got that call from Seibs that I was starting, it's given me a big boost," he said.
"I realised I'm one of the top centres in the team and Seibs trusts me. I've just got to keep doing what I've been doing."
His centre partner Boyd - who has played 28 Origin games for Queensland - said Staggs would not look out of place in the sky blue.
"When he first came into grade he was playing a bit of back row and lock, but centre is definitely his position," Boyd said.
"He's strong with the way he carries the ball and aggressive.
"He's got a lot of skill and speed too.
"If the way he started the season is any indication with how he's going to play this year, we're going to see big things from Kotoni."