After crossing codes back to Rugby League, youngster Phoenix Laulu-Togagae has set his sights on breaking into Super League with Hull KR.
Laulu-Togagae, the son of Keighley fullback Quentin, was on the books of the Academy of Leicester Tigers.
But the 18-year-old was enticed back to his first code and is now targeting a Super League debut in 2022.
Laulu-Togagae played for the Cougars in 2021 alongside his father, but signed with Hull KR in August and is currently completing his first pre-season with the club.
“Through high school I mainly played rugby union, because I went to private school and most private schools only play rugby union,” he says.
“I basically didn’t play any more Rugby League, apart from scholarship for about a year and a half. I just focused on union and eventually I got into Leicester. It was crazy.
“I don’t really know much about rugby union, but if there’s one club in England you know about in union it’s Leicester Tigers.
“It was pretty big to go there and a really good set-up in the Academy.
“But while I was playing for Keighley, I just started really enjoying Rugby League again. I wanted to be in a full-time environment. Although Leicester offered me a contract, it wasn’t a full-time one; it was a joint uni contract.
“Being in a full-time environment I’d be able to benefit and develop a lot more than just by playing uni rugby.”
The outside back admits there were two main factors in joining the Robins.
“The biggest thing was Lachlan Coote,” he says. “Obviously it would mean I’d not be first-choice fullback but I’d be able to learn loads. That was one of the main reasons.
“And when I spoke to Tony Smith, he was really open about getting my education done, which was really important for me and my parents. Those were the two main things that made me want to sign for Hull KR.”
Born in Brisbane, Laulu-Togagae was raised in Australia until he moved to Sheffield at the age of seven after his father signed with the Eagles.
And the 37-year-old former Toronto, Castleford and Halifax star has had a huge influence on him.
“Ever since I was a kid, I only wanted to be a rugby player and that’s because of him,” he said.
“I look up to him and I’ll always think he’s better than me. He’s got so much experience and he’s given me loads of advice about playing fullback and understanding the game.”
Laulu-Togagae admits his first Super League pre-season has been an eye-opener but he is enjoying it and eyeing a first-team debut next season.
“I just want to be a regular,” he says. “My first goal is to make my debut, and my goal after that is to become a regular Super League player.
“After that a lot of opportunities can arise. Anything can happen after becoming a Super League starter.”
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