NEWS Tough upbringing steels Staggs' resolve to make it

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Kotoni Staggs set to replace James Roberts in the Broncos centres and he is made for the job

March 16, 2019

If Broncos centre James Roberts succumbs to a back injury for Friday night’s Queensland derby against the Cowboys, Kotoni Staggs seems an apt choice to answer a backline SOS.

Given the hardships the 20-year-old Staggs has encountered in his young life, the prospect of filling the void of Brisbane’s fastest player will hardly be a daunting proposition.

It is testament to Staggs’ character that he has overcome a series of personal ordeals to become an NRL player at Queensland’s flagship sporting club.

Staggs’ mother, Leanne, went to jail while he was still a teenager. And while he shares the same first name as his dad Kotoni, the father-son threads have only been sewn in recent times.

For 17 years, the Broncos young gun didn’t know his old man. He has since learned his father lives in America. The pair have spoken on the phone, but never met face-to-face. The nervous conversations led to revelations that Staggs’ younger brother Gordon is currently playing college gridiron with a view to one day playing in the NFL.

By season’s end, Staggs not only hopes to forge a reputation as one of Brisbane’s most lethal outside backs, but build bonds with the man after whom he is named.

“I only started talking to my father a couple of years ago,” Staggs says.

“I’ve never met him but I am looking forward to meeting him at the end of this year.

“He is in America at the moment, in California.

“He doesn’t know rugby league but I have got another younger brother that lives over there with him and he is playing American Football at the moment.”

Without a father figure, a young Staggs could have easily traversed a path that led to a life of crime. Even turning to a mother’s love for guidance was challenging.

His biological mum had intermittent stints behind bars. She was incarcerated for driving without a licence before being locked up again over a theft offence.

Amid the pain and struggle growing up in the NSW bush town of Wellington, Staggs was forced to leave home to shack up with a mate. He eventually found stability and solace with his grandmother Dawn, who supported her grandson in his quest to one day become an NRL star.

Staggs has since healed with his mum. When he made his NRL debut against the Roosters last May, scoring a try in his maiden outing, he made a beeline for Leanne and his uncle Trent in the crowd when the full-time siren sounded. The trio hugged and shed tears.

“I have come a long way from where I started,” Staggs said.

“Mum has been out of jail for three years now.

“My mum has had a tough life but I have had a lot of support back home and a lot of family around me to help me out to be where I am today.

“Without them I wouldn’t know what to do.

“I grew up with my mum and then I moved into another home with a friend of mine that took me in for about six years. Then my mum got out of jail. I didn’t live with her, but I always looked up to her and went and saw her every day and made sure she was OK.”

Staggs played his 10th NRL game against Melbourne last Thursday night. Called into the action after just six minutes when Roberts hobbled off with back spasms, the super-sub impressed, running for 125 metres and making three tackle busts.

The quick-stepping utility back will start in just his second top-grade game if Roberts is ruled out for this Friday’s Cowboys derby and admits he could have easily been a felon instead of a footballer.

“My mates had a chance to do what I did,” he says. “I do have a lot of friends that could have been in the same position to be where I am today, but they took the wrong track.

“I just had a lot of good support behind me.”

Source: Courier Mail

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