When Sarah Togatuki began her footy career with the Glenmore Park Brumbies at age 17, she had to be smuggled out to games and training by her cousins because she knew her parents wouldn’t approve of her playing rugby league.
“According to my parents, footy was a big ‘no-no’ in my culture. Being Samoan, females were expected to be in the kitchen and doing all the housework, not out there playing tackle footy,” Togatuki told the Weekender.
“My cousins used to sneak me out to Glenmore Park footy grounds for training and games. They’d lie to my mum’s face saying they were taking me to study, but I wasn’t studying.”
It wasn’t until Togatuki’s Brumbies side made the Grand Final that year, that she finally came clean. She said it took many years for her parents to approve of her newfound career, especially her hardworking father.
“Dad didn’t come to any of my games. The only time he started believing that girls in our culture do belong in the game was when I debuted for the Sydney Roosters NRLW side in 2018,” Togatuki said.
“It wasn’t until I made my mark in the NRLW that Dad started showing up for me. He’s my biggest reason, my biggest why.”
Now 23, Togatuki has gone on to achieve plenty in the game including representing Samoa, the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII, New South Wales Origin and playing in last year’s NRLW Grand Final with the Roosters.
Next Friday, June 25, the St Marys Saint will return to the State of Origin arena for the second straight year after being named in the NSW Blues side to take on Queensland at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
Togatuki, who will be starting in the backrow for NSW, said she was shocked by her selection last month.
“I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it,” she admitted.
“Last year I went into camp with an injury and got less than nine minutes on the field. I just felt I didn’t do enough to be in that Blues jersey again this year.
“The big goal was to get a second shot at that jersey to prove that I do deserve to be there.”
Like NSW in the men’s State of Origin series, the women’s Blues side are also out for revenge against Queensland after they lost last November’s lone Origin match 24-18.
Togatuki said seeing what NSW did to the Maroons last Wednesday night in Townsville has inspired them to go out and do the same.
“I was stoked for the boys that they bounced back from last year’s series defeat. We want to bounce back from our loss as well,” she said.
“A bunch of us girls got up the next morning after Origin I and did our own training session. We messaged each other saying that win by the boys motivated us. We feel like some redemption as well.
“My Dad is flying up to Queensland for the game, which is honestly a massive shock. I’ll probably cry when I run out.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.