North Otago’s most recent Super Rugby product Sione Misiloi is living the dream.
Good form for Otago in the Mitre 10 Cup last year resulted in the former St Kevin’s College pupil signing a contract with the Highlanders for the 2020 season.
It was the fulfilment of a long-held ambition for the Tongan-born loose forward.
“It’s always been my goal,” Misiloi told the Oamaru Mail
“Aaron Smith, Shannon Frizell, Rob Thompson, Tei Walden, all those big names I watched on TV, to be able to train with them and play alongside them is just been awesome and a privilege.
“It’s been fun and I’m enjoying every moment of it.”
These days, a lot of Super Rugby players are signed straight out of school. At 25 years old, Misiloi has taken a different approach.
After finishing school in 2013, he moved to Dunedin to study physical education. After two years, he decided to change direction and got a job as a youth worker for Oranga Tamariki.
While working in Dunedin, he joined Harbour Rugby Club through his connection with former Highlander Hale T-Pole, who is a family friend.
Consistent performances in the Dunedin club competition meant he was eventually selected for higher honours, including selection for North Otago as a player or origin in 2016.
“I guess the main thing was to just put my head down, work hard,” Misiloi said.
“I really wanted to do something good for my family and I guess just working hard through my footy, training hard and keeping my goals [paid off].”
Playing for North Otago was a step up from club rugby, which had been one of Misiloi’s goals.
“It was awesome just to go back home and play for the province.”
He debuted for Otago in 2018, but still followed North Otago’s progress and said it was “awesome” to see his former team win the Meads Cup last year.
While his focus is now on Super Rugby, his job as a youth worker has been put on hold, but it is something Misiloi would like to return to after rugby.
“It’s always been my passion, just to work with kids and give back to them,” he said.
Misiloi has always maintained a strong connection with Oamaru, often returning to visit his parents Tuavale and Soane, and his four siblings.
Being the oldest child in the family came with some responsibly, he said.
“Pretty much being the role model and setting the example for them throughout their path and their journey,” he said.
There is plenty of rugby talent in the family brother Jerome captained the St Kevin’s College First XV last year and another brother Antonio plays for Excelsior, and was named in the North Otago squad for the Ranfurly Shield challenge last year before he was ruled out by injury.