As the saying goes, ‘it’s a small world’.

In rugby league, it’s even smaller.

This week, newcastleknights.com.au was contacted by Sally Va’afusuaga from Pt England School in Auckland, NZ, which just so happens to be where Starford To’a went to school as a child.

According to Va’afusuaga, it was easy to see To’a’s talent from a young age.

“He was always outstanding on the field for both league and union,” she said.

“He achieved rugby league player of the year and overall sportsman of the year in 2013 before he departed to St Pauls College in the city.”

Three photos were attached to the message, showing a Four Nations Fan Day which occurred in at school. The photos were published in the New Zealand Herald newspaper on 3rd November 2010, when To'a was just 10 years old.

Incredibly, Shaun Kenny-Dowall was amongst the players in attendance, as he was the first-choice centre for the Kiwi’s at the time.

Kenny-Dowall would go on to be a mentor to To’a and a huge influence on his fledging career. The 31-year-old spoke during To’a's jersey presentation in the hours before his debut.

To’a became the latest player to debut for the nib Newcastle Knights last week, performing well and even scoring a try in the team’s final game against Penrith. The player he replaced was an injured Shaun Kenny-Dowall.

Read the full correspondence from Va’afusuaga and the Pt England School below.

Good morning,

We wanted to share a cool story of Starford when he was a student at our school for 8 years from 2005-2013.

He was always outstanding on the field for both league and union (his older brother, Lepa was also very good).  Achieved rugby league player of the year and overall sportsman of the year in 2013 before he departed to St Pauls College in the city.  He was also a rugby union representative in 2012 & 2013.

But we wanted to share a serendipity bit of a story of when Starford attended the Four Nations Fans Day in November 2010 (photos attached), when Shaun Kenny-Dowall was in the Kiwis squad.  The photo was published in the NZ Herald newspaper on 3/11/10.

Remarkable that 9 years later, Starford's mentor would become Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who he replaced on his NRL debut.

We know that Starford would have worked very hard to get to where he is and we are very happy for him and the family.  Thank you very much for looking after him.

Kind regards,

Sally Va'afusuaga