Michael Sio isn’t sure if Saturday’s grand final will be the last time he plays for Norths so his co-captain Jack Ahearn wants Devils supporters to know just how much the forward has meant to the club.
“In my eyes, Mikey is simply our best player,” Ahearn said.
“He is the ultimate teammate. The things he does for our team on the field are unmatched. He can carry the ball. He is gutsy in defence and always gets his body in front for contact. He’s courageous and he loves and cares for Norths.
“It’s been a privilege and an honour to be a part of the Devils with him for the last five years. He is at the top of the list for best [Hostplus] Cup players not to play NRL.”
The words have to come from Ahearn because Sio’s humility prevent him from such praise.
Devils fans will remember the 2021 grand final when all of Sio’s heart and determination drove him to one of the most important plays in the club’s modern history.
With eight minutes remaining in the decider against Wynnum Manly, scores level, Sio charged from marker to put pressure on a Seagulls’ field goal attempt. His efforts forced the kick wide and, from the ensuing seven-tackle set, the Devils scored the match-winning try on the final tackle.
Sio can’t be sure that Saturday’s Hostplus Cup grand final against the Dolphins at Redcliffe will be his final match for the Devils as he ponders his next step.
The 29-year-old has juggled his football commitments with his apprenticeship as an electrician. Sio didn’t want to jeopardise that apprenticeship by seeking an NRL contract.
Now that he’s a qualified tradesman, he’ll have a final crack at an NRL deal otherwise he’ll treat next year as a football “gap” season and focus on his wife Nesi and daughter Imelda, 15 months.
The pair spent some time visiting family recently in New Zealand where Imelda took her first steps.
Sio missed the milestone, remaining in Brisbane to help the Devils build a six-game winning streak into Saturday’s decider.
“I’m not sure what will happen next year but I know that playing semi-pro football and working full-time does reduce the time you can spend with family and that’s my priority,” Sio said.
“A fulltime football contract would enable me to spend time with family but sometimes that’s out of your control.
“I’m just grateful for the time that I have had at Norths.
“It’s developed me not just as a footy player but as a person. I have learnt so much from meeting people and I have had leadership opportunities that have helped me grow.”
Sio has always been a leader.
He’s the eldest of five children, a former school captain at the prestigious St Paul’s College in Auckland and captain of the New Zealand Warriors Under 20s.
His leadership is set more by actions than stirring speeches.
Sio’s style is what fans have come to see on the field – a huge work rate, a respectful approach and a focus on his teammates.
One of his favourite Devils’ memories is playing in the same team as younger brother Chris, who has since returned to New Zealand.
Typically, Sio isn’t showing any nerves as he prepares for the grand final along with eight teammates who were part of last year’s victory.
“There was so much excitement last year because it was the first time in a grand final like that for many of us,” Sio said.
“We know more about what to expect this year. But we also know we’ll be facing a very good team in Redcliffe.
“There’s a big prize at the end of it. We’ll give it our best shot.”
Photo by Alan Drinnen