Kotoni Staggs looks set to continue his meteoric rise at the top level of rugby league after earning a spot in the Indigenous side for the Harvey Norman All Stars clash in Melbourne on February 15.
The 20-year-old Wellington product will line-up on the bench for the Indigenous team, which is headlined by essentially an all-NSW State of Origin three-quarter line.
Blues guns Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell and James Roberts have all earned selection in the Indigenous outside backs, while ex-NSW winger Blake Ferguson, who also hails from Wellington, lines up on the flank.
Friday week’s All Star’s game will be Ferguson’s fourth appearance for the Indigenous All Stars.
It’ll be Staggs’ first All Stars jersey, and comes after the former Cowboys, Group 11 and Western Rams ace enjoyed a stellar 2018, which included winning the Intrust Super Cup premiership the with Redcliffe Dolphins.
Staggs played in the centres for the Dolphins and Broncos coach Anthony Seibold believes the 92-kilogram back is capable of pushing both Jack Bird and Roberts for a place in the Brisbane centres, but says the premiership-winning Cowboys star would likely fill a utility role to start 2019.
He’ll adopt a similar role for Indigenous side as well.
"I think Kotoni is a talented kid and certainly he will be competing for a 14 role if he wasn't one of the centres, and there are a couple of other guys in the same position, but I'd rather they all challenge for a starting 13 berth,” Seibold told NRL.com.
Fellow Wellington Cowboys junior Tyrone Peachey has also made the Indigenous side, the new Titans utility has been named at lock and will make his fourth All Stars appearance.
Red Bend gun Joel Thompson, though, will miss the clash.
The Manly backrower picked up an injury at Sea Eagles training at the end of January and the proud Wiradjuri man won’t feature in the All Stars game.
He’s basically been part of the All Stars furniture since the concept’s inception, and 2019 would have been the Forbes product’s seventh appearance.
“Heartbreaking I had to pull out of All Stars game,” Thompson said in a tweet.
“I strained my calf last week. I wish the brothers and sisters all the best, no better feeling then representing our people.”
The All Stars concept took a hiatus in 2018, but originally kicked off in 2010. This is the first year the Maori All Stars side has been included.
The NRL Harvey Norman All Stars will also include a women’s game, with an Indigenous side to take on the New Zealand Maori Ferns as part of a double-header.