Much to many Queensland NRLW fans’ disappointment, Tamika Upton has never regretted her decision to move from Central Queensland to Newcastle to play for the Knights.
26-year-old Tamika played rugby league with the boys at Blackwater Crushers Junior Rugby League Club until she was 12.
After that, Tamika played touch football, netball and every other sport she could until she was about 20 years old and asked if she would join the local league.
“Then I got picked up by the Broncos. I felt like a fish out of water and it wasn’t until after the first year with Brisbane that I realised there was a pathway to the professional competition and from then on I knew what I wanted to do,” Tamika said.
Tamika played three seasons with the Broncos in the NRLW, helping them win the Premiership in 2019 and 2020. Brisbane lost the 2021 semi-final to the Roosters that ended up being played in early 2022 due to the pandemic.
Tamika left the Broncos that year and joined the Newcastle Knights for their 2022 Premiership-winning season, before signing a five-year deal early in 2023 to stay until at least the end of 2027.
The star fullback never thought she’d end up in Newcastle, but she’s never looked back.
PHOTO CREDITS: Newcastle Knights
“I had never really been to Newcastle but when the opportunity came up I went for a visit and the people, the facilities and everything the place had to offer blew me away.
“I love Newcastle, the place itself was a big sell but mainly the girls and the group that we have. There’s a big core group that are really dedicated to staying here and I think we are going to reap the benefits of that for years to come.”
It wasn’t until this year that female players were able to sign contracts for longer than a year after some intense negotiations between the Rugby League Players Association and the Australian Rugby League Commission.
“It’s massive. We’d just been signing three-month contracts previously so to be able to sign a five-year contract is very exciting.”
Tamika has also represented the Queensland Maroons in State of Origin, making her debut in 2020 scoring two tries for the side in their win over NSW. She was selected again in 2021, 2022 and 2023.
2022 was a huge year for Tamika with State of Origin and helping the Knights win the Premiership. Tamika scored a try in their win over Parramatta in the Grand Final.
After that game, she was also named the winner of the Karyn Murphy Medal, awarded to the best player on the ground.
Tamika is determined to play another strong NRLW season and is confident in the side’s ability to potentially go back-to-back.
“I feel really good. I think we are the fittest we’ve ever been, the longer pre-season has really served us well. We’ve come together as a group and I think that is all going to show on the field.
“We’re playing a different style of footy.
“We really felt the support from the community last year and it’s already started this year. I think everyone is feeling the same that I am, we’re all very excited to get back out there and run out in front of the fans.”
The Knights have got their 2023 season off to a great start, winning their season opener in front of a home crowd at McDonald Jones Stadium against the Dragons.
Tamika said her family and friends don’t give her too much stick for playing in NSW… the fans do though!
“No not my family, my family are very supportive but when I am back in Queensland I do get a little bit, especially from the Broncos fans! But there is nothing but support when I am here in Newcastle.”