Having been so close to a State of Origin debut before suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2020, Kotoni Staggs can't help but be excited to know he's firmly in the frame for a New South Wales call-up this weekend.
The Brisbane centre has been in devastating form for the resurgent Broncos over the first 11 weeks of the NRL season, scoring three tries and forming an exciting partnership with young winger Selwyn Cobbo as Kevin Walters' team have surged into top four contention with a 7-4 record.
With Tom Trbojevic's shoulder injury over the weekend meaning he and Latrell Mitchell are unavailable for the June 8 Origin opener at Accor Stadium, the Blues' centre spots are up for grabs.
Staggs is a leading contender for selection along with Penrith's Stephen Crichton, while other chances include Canberra's Jack Wighton, South Sydney's Campbell Graham and Cronulla wrecking ball Siosifa Talakai.
The 23-year-old says after his Origin dream was ruined by that ACL injury, he couldn't be happier his efforts to recover may be rewarded when Brad Fittler names his squad.
"There was a lot of hard work that I had to do to get back to the field and I was so close to probably making my Origin debut when I did my knee," Staggs said.
"Everything happens for a reason and I worked pretty hard to get where I am today.
"Origin's coming up soon so fingers crossed, but I'll just keep doing my job for the Broncos and then hopefully something happens for myself."
Staggs said he spoke with Fittler during his recovery last year but more as a welfare check than anything else.
"I spoke to him a few times and he was just calling up about my knee ... How I'm going, the process and where I am," Staggs said.
"There was not much about my defence, but as a player myself, I knew that I had to work on that.
"That was my main thing coming back to pre-season. I knew my attack was there and my defence needed to get a bit better.
"This year the combination of our right side has been unreal. I've fixed my defence up and I can only get better from there."
Staggs will look to further his claim when Brisbane host Gold Coast in a Queensland derby at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
That game will be part of the NRL's indigenous round with Staggs, who is connected to the Wiradjuri nation through his mother, having played a key role in the design of the Broncos' jersey for Friday's game alongside teammate Albert Kelly.
The feel-good factor at Red Hill was further boosted on Monday with English centre Herbie Farnworth signing a new deal until the end of the 2023 season.
"We're on the same page and we're all working to that one goal, to win the premiership," Staggs said.
"If we're all committed to the one thing, we'll go pretty close to doing that, and having people signing here is a very big head start."
Australian Associated Press
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