Sports

Why Kotoni Staggs, the pride of Wellington, is made for State of Origin

If Kotoni Staggs has his way, the last person to leave Wellington next Wednesday will turn the lights off.

Staggs wants the whole town at Stadium Australia when he makes his New South Wales debut in the State of Origin series opener, all 4,500 of them.

For a little town in the state’s central west, Wellington has punched above it’s weight when it comes to Blues stars — Staggs is the third Wellington man to play Origin in recent years, alongside Blake Ferguson and Tyrone Peachey, and he’s fiercely proud of his hometown .

So it doesn’t matter how many cars or vans or buses they’re packed into, he wants them all to come over the mountains to be there with him, to watch it happen, to see this former Wellington Cowboy become a Blue.

“I’ll have all of Wello there, hopefully. Everybody’s coming, there’ll be a lot of carloads coming up,” Staggs said.

“It means a lot to me, it’s a small community but we love our footy, it helps us get along and get together. To have a few Origin players from there is unreal for the community.

“I was at the races in Brissy, having a punt but it’s hard to back winners, and Freddy [Blues coach Brad Fittler] Congratulated me and told me I was in the team. It was an unreal moment for me, and an emotional one for me and my family.

“Origin night always goes off in Wello. The pubs are booming, or it’s pizza and a few beers at one of the boys’ houses.

“The atmosphere, it comes through the TV, how big the crowd was, all the blue faces. That and how tough the game was, that always stood out to me.”

Staggs plays without fear or hesitation. (Getty: Bradley Kanaris)

In selecting Staggs, Fittler is backing him to show that same toughness.

An easy way of labeling somebody as being up to State of Origin football is to call them “an Origin-style player” regardless of whether they’ve played at that level or not.

At it’s worst, it’s a lazy way of explaining why you’d select a certain player over another without actually offering a reason. At it’s best, it’s about as high a compliment as a player can receive.

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