Father's memory driving Semisi Kioa

Honouring the memory of his father is driving young Manly centre Semisi Kioa to succeed in rugby league.

Born to Tongan parents but raised in Auckland, Semisi was just 12-years-old when his father – who he was named after – passed away.

"Dad was always there for me with my footy and he knew that's what I wanted to be, a football player,'' Semisi said.

"I'm now in a position where if I can keep working hard and not get too ahead of myself and be better in every training session, I can achieve my goals. I'm not letting anything get in my way."

Seven years since his father's passing, the 19-year-old is enjoying the challenges of his first pre-season as a full-time member of the Sea Eagles squad for next season.

A strong running centre and solid defender, Semisi has been a shining light for the Sea Eagles over the past two seasons in the U20s competition and was a member of the 2017 premiership winning team.

The premiership came just three years after Semisi turned his back on rugby union to move to Sydney.

"I was doing well in rugby union and was offered a scholarship to go to a top union school,'' he said.

"At the time, I was playing rugby league and union but decided to head to Sydney when I was 15. I had a cousin who was playing lower grades at the Wests Tigers so that made the move a little easier."

Semisi spent three years playing with Cronulla Sharks' Harold Matthews and SG Ball teams. The Sharks won the Harold Matthews title with Semisi scoring two tries in the premiership decider.

A knee injury later ruled him out for the 2016 season and led to Semisi joining the Sea Eagles midway through 2017.

It proved to be a successful move with Manly coming from eighth position to claim the U20s trophy.

Semisi is now one of seven players from the premiership-winning team in the 2019 Manly squad. Prop Taniela Paseka and hooker Manase Fainu have since made their NRL debuts for the Sea Eagles.

"It was an unbelievable ride to the grand final. All of the boys in that team were very close and we kept each other motivated every game,'' Semisi added.

"To win on the buzzer was unreal. I can't explain how happy everyone was for all our hard work.

"When I saw Manase make his NRL debut, it made me want to train even harder to reach the goals I have set for myself.

"My mum was crying and was very happy for me when I told her I was in the full-time squad at Manly. She knows how far I have come to be selected.

"Mum moved to Sydney at the beginning of this year and has been an enormous help to me. I can't thank her enough.

"My family have always been a massive support. One day I will look back to where I started and thank everyone.

"I promised my Dad before he passed that I would try and make my family proud. I want to honour his name."

Extra-time with Semisi Kioa

- Has four older sisters and a younger brother
- Played junior rugby league for Mangere East in Auckland
- Played drums in the school band
- Went to Wesley College, the famous rugby school attended by Jonah Lomu
- Supported the Sydney Roosters as a child and was a big fan of Michael Jennings.