Experienced Australian Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) guard Tahlia Tupaea will play for the Northern Kāhu in the upcoming Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa season.
Remarkably, the 25 year-old Sydneysider has already played close to 150 WNBL games having debuted for Sydney University Flames in 2012. At the time she was the second youngest debutant in the history of the WNBL at 15 years and 133 days. Two years later she was a key member of the Flames WNBL championship winning team. Most recently Tupaea played for the 2022 WNBL semi-finalists Canberra Capitals.
Although born and raised in Sydney, Tupaea has strong connections to New Zealand. Of Tainui-Ngāti Tipa descent, her father Omar was born in New Zealand.
“It’s a big attraction to come back and play in front of family,” said Tupaea.
“I heard about the league and how it has changed and what kind of players are returning to play and I just wanted to be involved in it.
“I just thought it was a great opportunity to play in New Zealand for the first time in front of my whanau – there are quite a lot of them,” she said wryly.
Playing alongside Micaela Cocks is an exciting prospect for Tupaea. The pair have played against each other on numerous occasions in the WNBL over the last ten years but never on the same team.
“I’ve played against Micaela a lot, she’s a great athlete so it will be a great opportunity to play with her. She shoots the ball really well so it will be handy to have her on our team.
Talking of shooting the ball well, Tupaea was the leading 3-point shooter for Canberra in the recently completed WNBL season, knocking down 19 from 43 attempts at 40.5%.
“I started shooting the ball from the outside a bit more in the last WNBL season. This compliments the strength I have as a guard.
“I like to use my size advantage against opponents,” said Tupaea when outlining what Kāhu fans can expect of the Aussie international.
The Penrith native enjoyed an outstanding junior career playing for Australian teams at three World Championships. She played at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships in the Czech Republic and the U19 World Champs in Lithuania (2013) and Russia (2015), winning a bronze medal on both occasions.
Her WNBL and Australian U19 performances brought her to the attention of WNBA clubs resulting in her being the 36th pick by the Minnesota Lynx in the 2017 WNBA draft. Whilst a WNBA career didn’t materialise, 140 WNBL appearances, two titles and three world championship campaigns illuminate an impressive career.
The Kāhu play their first home game against Tokomanawa Queens at the Franklin Pool & Leisure Centre on Monday July 4. Once tickets go on sale, you’ll need to get yours early before the Tupaea whānau grab all the seats! Stay tuned for the release date soon!