Kotoni Staggs has received his first call-up to the Australian Kangaroos squad after starring for the Brisbane Broncos during their run to the 2024 NRL grand final.
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Wellington Cowboys junior Staggs is one of five debutants named in the Kangaroos squad by coach Mal Meninga for the upcoming Pacific Championships.
He's one of two former Group 11 stars in the squad, with St John's product Isaah Yeo again selected after helping the Penrith Panthers to a historic third successive NRL premiership victory on Sunday night.
Staggs appears a strong chance of earning game time at the championships as Valentine Holmes and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow shape as the only other genuine contenders for a place in the centres.
After a number of seasons interrupted by injuries and off-field incident, 24-year-old Staggs was a standout for the Broncos this season and scored 13 regular season tries.
His selection in the Australian squad is another proud moment for his home town of Wellington after he played in his first NRL grand final on Sunday.
The grand final, while ending in painful defeat after the Panthers rallied from 16 points down with 24 minutes remaining to win a classic, was a memorable one for Staggs as it was his 100th NRL match.
Wellington Cowboys president Graeme Blackhall said ahead of the final Staggs was "a kid you just gave a jersey to because he always wanted to give his best".
"If he couldn't do his best, he was always searching for reasons to improve. He has done himself so proud to get to where he is after what he has been through," Blackhall added.
Staggs' Brisbane teammates Selwyn Cobbo, Payne Haas and Tom Flegler are the others named for their maiden Kangaroos campaign alongside Dolphins star Tabuai-Fidow.
Yeo is one of three Panthers in the squad alongside Clive Churchill Medallist Nathan Cleary and Liam Martin.
"The quality we saw in the regular season, the State of Origin series and the finals series means we have been able to put together an outstanding squad," coach Meninga said.
"The squad has a healthy blend of representatives from last year's World Cup, as well as others who have performed extremely well over the course of the season."
Yeo was one of the stars of Australia's successful World Cup campaign last year and scored two tries during the run to the final victory over Samoa.
The Kangaroos' first game in the Pacific Championships will be against Samoa on Saturday, October 14 in Townsville.
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