International forward Michael Sio has become the latest player to join Norths for 2018, reuniting with new Devils coach Rohan Smith.
Sio has returned to Australia after a stint in the UK Super League, joining the growing competition for places in the Devils’ forward pack for the Intrust Super Cup season.
The 24-year-old starred for the New Zealand Warriors in the NRL Under 20 competition, captaining the team and winning its player of the year award. That helped him gain selection in the Samoan squad for the 2013 World Cup, making the first of five Test appearances.
Sio played in the Warriors’ NSW Cup team, when he was coached by Smith, before a short stint with Mackay Cutters followed by 18 months in the UK with Wakefield Trinity and Halifax.
“I’m rapt that Michael Sio has joined us – he’s a competitor and he’s a quality person,” Smith said.
“I enjoyed coaching him in the Warriors set-up and I know he’s going to add real depth to our squad for this season. He’s versatile and he’s tough and he has real leadership skills. He’s been extremely close to NRL selection before and we look forward to helping Michael further develop his football.”
Sio can play at hooker and lock, presenting a valuable utility option in a Devils forward pack that has been bolstered by several off-season signings since Smith was appointed coach last October.
“I’m really looking forward to this season. I’ve been training at Bishop Park since before Christmas and I’m really enjoying it. There’s a good atmosphere at the club with some established players and some new guys,” Sio said.
“Rohan has said that no one is guaranteed a spot for this season so it’s up to us to prove that we’re worthy of selection. I don’t mind what position I play – I’ve alternated between 13 and 9 and even second-row – so I’ll do whatever is asked.”
Sio is the oldest of five children – his two brothers have also represented the Warriors at NRL Under 20 level.
But rugby league wasn’t a likely path for Sio until his rugby union-loving father encouraged his oldest son to play the game at junior level. That soon became a career option for Sio even though he performed well academically as school captain of St Paul’s College, Auckland.
“Dad was happy for us to play league because I think he liked the style of the game and he thought we would find it fun,” Sio said.
“But I still mostly watched rugby union. I didn’t really start watching league until I was picked in some junior rep teams and then it became a real focus for me.
“I still have plenty of goals I’d like to achieve and I’m keen to do that in an environment like we have at Norths.”
Sio’s previous taste of the Intrust Super Cup came at Mackay Cutters as he pursued a berth in the North Queensland Cowboys’ NRL squad. A few months later, Wakefield Trinity recruited Sio for an enjoyable UK stint.
“I was fortunate to play with some excellent players there and that really helped develop my game. I’m very keen to keep learning more about football,” Sio said.
The Devils have made several key player announcements over the summer with new faces including Alex Bishop (Sunshine Coast), Jack Ahearn (Redcliffe), Guy Williams (Sunshine Coast), Oshae Tuiasau (Townsville) and Carne Doyle-Manga (Tweed Heads).
New Devils CEO Terry Reader said the club continued to attract new corporate partners for 2018 following the release of a draw which included home games on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons and two matches at Suncorp Stadium before Broncos’ NRL home games.