Keighley Cougars’ Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e and son Phoenix complete rare playing feat

WHEN he first moved to the UK in 2010, not for one minute did Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e ever envisage he would be playing professional rugby league here alongside his own son Phoenix a decade later.

However, remarkably, the 36-year-old Aucklander achieved just that when he and the 17-year-old played together for Keighley Cougars against Bradford Bulls on Saturday.

It is a genuine rarity in British rugby league for a father and son to play in the same side with Castleford Tigers’ Tyla Hepi the last to do so when he linked up with his dad Brad Hepi for Gloucestershire All Golds in 2013.

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It is thought the only other time it has occurred is when the former Featherstone Rovers and Great Britain prop Jeff Grayshon – who was 45 when he retired at Batley in 1995 – featured with son Paul for Bradford Northern during his long career.

Phoenix – a full-back, like his father, and on the books of Leicester Tigers – came on in the second half of Keighley’s 22-18 pre-season loss at Dewsbury.

Laulu-Togaga’e famously scored a prolific 183 tries in 218 appearances for Sheffield Eagles and, after spells with Toronto Wolfpack, Halifax (twice), Castleford Tigers and Newcastle Thunder, joined League 1 Cougars in the off-season.

His son still lives in the family home in Sheffield and attends Birkdale School where he is studying for A-levels.

Laulu Togaga’e told The Yorkshire Post: “I am really proud.

“I would never have thought I’d have the opportunity to play with my son like this but I’m still in decent shape and I feel good.

“On Saturday, it was just like any other day; he plays rugby and has a certain way he likes to prepare and I have my way as well so we just treated it like a normal game day.

“We had some brekkie – but then my wife told me to make sure he didn’t get hurt!

“No pressure at all, putting all that responsibility on me...”

The former Samoa international explained: “Phoenix turns 18 in April so the only problem was that he hasn’t played against men before.

“But he went really well at training with Keighley and I was always quite confident he’d be able to go well in the game.

“He showed that; when he came on he looked dangerous every time he touched the ball.”

Laulu-Togaga’e known as QLT – explained how it came about that his talented son arrived at Lawkholme Lane with him.

“He’s with Leicester Tigers’ academy and their season got cancelled just after new year so that means they won’t play any games,” he said.

“I contacted our coach at Keighley, Rhys Lovegrove, just to see if he could come train with us, just for his own development.

“But he said why don’t we sign him as a squad player and if we think he’s good enough he’s then in position to play?

“I asked Leicester and they were really happy with it as it meant he could play some form of rugby as otherwise he wouldn’t be playing for a full year.

“I was really thankful to them and Keighley - Rhys and the owner Mick O’Neill - for allowing it to happen.”

Yet, ironically, the veteran could find himself losing his own position if the teenager now thrives.

Laulu-Togaga’e admitted: “I do get asked about that a lot but I have my goals and he has his.

“If he’s good enough to take my spot then he’s my son; I’ll be happy if he is good enough. But he’d the only one I’d be happy with taking it!

“On Saturday, they moved me to the halves when he came on and he went to full-back. I’m happy to go there if that means Phoenix is playing.”

But how did the duo celebrate the momentous occassion?

“We had a KFC for dinner and just chilled,” laughed Laulu-Togaga’e.

“I actually hurt my back in the second half and it was before Phoenix came on. Usually I’d put my hand up to come off but I wanted to stay out there as I knew my son was coming on!

“I spent most of Sunday recovering from that. We have London Broncos away in the Challenge Cup on Saturday. That will be a good challenge for us. We’ll talk to Rhys on Tuesday night at training to see what he wants to do next.

“We have to take it one step at a time but Rhys has massive raps on him.”

It remains to be seen which code the Brisbane-born youngster, who was on Wakefield Trinity’s scholarship before concentrating on his school rugby union, will end up playing in the long-term.

However, Cougars last night made their move by announcing they had signed the former Sheffield Hawks ARLFC junior on a one-year deal.

Lovegrove said: “We were fortunate that due to the current situation with Covid, Leicester had to temporarily shut down their academy systems and it allowed Phoenix to become available to us.

“We brought Phoenix into our bubble to get some reps in on trial and he has really impressed since joining us after Christmas.

“He is a fast learner and as people will have caught a glimpse of against Bradford, he is a very talented individual with great footwork and the ability to move the ball around the field.

“I think it is safe to say that Phe has got a very exciting future ahead of him.”

Laulu-Togaga’e said: “I just want him to do well. Obviously his dream is to play profefssional rugby and, because he’s been at Leicester Tigers for the last two or three years, he wants to chase rugby union for now.

“But at the same time, his education comes first so I’ve told him that he needs to get his education sorted in case he needs that to fall back on.

“He’s going to try and do an economics degree and wants to go to Loughborough Univeristy who have a partnership with Leicester.”

His dad, meanwhile, will concentrate on trying to deliver promotion for Keighley where age - at both ends of the scale - is clearly no barrier; 35-year-old Scott Murrell and 38-year-old Jake Webster are two of the other big guns firing in the Cougars backline.

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