Brisbane gun Kotoni Staggs has lifted the lid on the uncertainty that surrounded his future at Red Hill last year, with the bullish centre having been in high demand throughout the course of 2021.
The 23-year-old had gained reported interest from Newcastle, Parramatta, Gold Coast and Canterbury as his contract came to an end, with the Broncos needing to stave off several keen suitors.
They were able to eventually lock away the New South Welshman to a lucrative four-year deal, which is set to land Staggs close to $3 million.
The signing was a major boost for Kevin Walters' retention planning, with the Broncos' senior coach having pushed hard to lock away key emerging names in his first season at the helm.
Staggs' decision to remain in Queensland didn't come easily however, with the Wellington product having almost departed for the Knights in a return to his home state.
Speaking to News Corp, Staggs revealed that his lifelong ambition to star for the Queensland powerhouse was the pulling factor in turning his back on interest from south of the Tweed.
“Deciding my future was huge. It was a close call,” Staggs said.
“The Knights were really keen. I almost did leave to go there, but when I thought about going, I looked back to my time as a kid and I had set my dream to play for the Broncos.
“I didn’t just want to walk away from that. I’m glad I stayed at the Broncos and I don’t regret the decision at all... It was the right call.”
While a career-defining contract call constantly placed Staggs among the headlines last season, an injury-riddled past two seasons had ignited an internal battle within the 53-gamer.
An ACL injury sustained in 2020 sidelined the Broncos star for the opening half of last season, subsequently isolating himself from his teammates as his lengthy recuperation process continued.
Unable to influence the game from afar, Staggs still felt as though he had still played some part in the Broncos' lowly finish of 14th.
"The last two years, I feel I’ve let my teammates and the Broncos fans down," he said.
“At my worst, I didn’t want to go to some home games because I felt so bad letting everyone down.
“The injuries wore me down and it got to a point where I wasn’t enjoying footy and I didn’t want to be around the place.
“I would watch the game and when the guys are going through a tough time with results, I hated it … just sitting there not being able to contribute.
Staggs will feature in his customary No.3 jumper on Sunday when the Broncos host Queensland rivals the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium.
The fixture will mirror the two games that saw Staggs suffer ACL and MCL injuries across the past two seasons, with the pair of setbacks having been sustained in Brisbane against North Queensland.
For Staggs, his body is feeling as strong as it has for some time, with the powerful outside back hopeful he will be able to reimburse any debts still owed to the Broncos.
“I’ve had some bad luck against the Cowboys, but my knees are feeling good at the moment — touch wood — and this season is my chance to repay the Broncos.”
Sunday's clash between Brisbane and North Queensland at Lang Park is scheduled to commence at 4:05pm.