Brisbane Broncos ace shines in State of Origin audition – Brad Fittler impressed

Michael Holland

New South Wales coach Brad Fittler was left singing the praises of Brisbane Broncos ace Kotoni Staggs who came out on top in the battle of the centres when up against Sharks star Siosifa Talakai on Thursday night.

The Broncos caused an upset when defeating Cronulla 16-7 at Suncorp Stadium. And it was the performance of Staggs that stood out as he went toe-to-toe with Talakai in the State of Origin audition.

The Blues are in need of a replacement for Latrell Mitchell. The South Sydney ace is a huge doubt for game one on 8th June as he battles with a hamstring injury.

It means the door could be open for Staggs or Talakai to step in. In the build up to the game the focus was on the pair. Indeed Staggs was quizzed about it straight after the win over the Bulldogs the week before.

Brisbane Broncos take the win

He said he was up for it and that proved to be the case. Staggs was the stand-out. Early on he forced two errors from his rival before grabbing the Broncos opening try in the 36th minute, skipping past Talakai in the process.

With Adam Reynolds off the field at the time, Staggs then added the extras with a great kick from the touchline. To cap a great night he then denied Talakai a try at the death.

Along with teammate Selwyn Cobbo, Staggs held Talakai up after he had crossed the line. It was a remarkable piece of defence, again right in front of the watching Fittler.

A week earlier Fittler was glowing in his praise of Talakai as he shone against Manly. On this occasion though it was all about Staggs who may now have one hand on the Blues jersey.

Fittler impressed with Staggs

“I thought it was fantastic,” Fittler told channel 9 during his commentary work on the game. “It tells me that the right side of the Broncos got the victory. A little bit of experience from Adam Reynolds helped.

“Kotoni, going out with a defensive mindset, but then being able to score that try at half time, tells you a lot about what he’s capable of.

“Focus on defence but then still has the power to stand up Talakai and beat the winger to the corner, that was an incredible effort.”

Even Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon, who was on the Blues staff last year, admitted Staggs won the battle.

“He was a bit flat,” Fitzgibbon said of Talakai after the game. “(Staggs) is a hell of a player. He’s a quality player.”