'I love my culture': Staggs prepares to honour family with Mate Ma'a debut

EMOTIONAL: Issac Luke and Kotoni Staggs exchange a hongi, a traditional greeting before the Indigenous Round 11. Staggs will make his international debut with Tonga on Saturday night. Photo: AAP
EMOTIONAL: Issac Luke and Kotoni Staggs exchange a hongi, a traditional greeting before the Indigenous Round 11. Staggs will make his international debut with Tonga on Saturday night. Photo: AAP

Kotoni Staggs doesn't know a lot about his father and knows a little less about his Tongan heritage, but on Saturday he'll pay homage to both the best way he knows how.

Staggs will debut for the Mate Ma'a when Tonga takes on New Zealand at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland.

The prodigiously talented Brisbane Broncos centre will get his first taste of international rugby league on Saturday night and it's a moment the Wellington junior anticipates will make his family - both in Australia and overseas - immensely proud.

"I love my culture and that's why I'm here," Staggs told media in New Zealand.

He has never met his Tongan father, who resides in the US, but recently reached out and is set to meet him for the first time at the end of the year in San Francisco.

"Before I made the decision of playing for Tonga, I gave him a call. He was stoked as well," Staggs said.

I love my culture and that's why I'm here.

Kotoni Staggs ahead of his debut with Tonga.

"It's just a thing I wanted to do for him as well, just to get to know the background of where my brothers and sisters on his side come from."

The Tonga and New Zealand clash will kick-off at 3.40pm on Saturday afternoon, Australia eastern standard time.

Staggs has been named in the centres for the clash.

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