Back to the Taniwha roots

Getty Images

Campbell Burnes     04 Sep 2019     Getty Images

The 27-year-old midfielder played 13 games for North Harbour in 2017-18 while she was doing her studies, but the chance to be a trailblazer for women’s rep rugby in the north was too good an opportunity to pass up.

Tupe has rugby in her blood. Her father Alan played six games as a midfielder for North Auckland, as it was then known, from 1977-80, while brother Roger turned out for the cambridge blues on the wing in the 1990s.

“I had an opportunity after I had my little boy to go home and trial for the Taniwha. There were seven club teams, which fed through to the trials. A lot put their hands up. We had squad of 40 for a while,” says Tupe.

She played her club footy for the Kamo Hawks, an amalgamation of players from the Otamatea and Kamo clubs.

Tupe is in good company with those with rep experience who have come home.

Black Ferns Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, now the No 1 hooker in the country, first five Victoria Subritzsky-Nafatali and lock Harano Te Iringa will all suit up for Northland in 2019, having originally hailed from the region.

“There’s a good balance of fast, fit youth and then the more experienced heads,” says Tupe.

Tupe, like many of the girls, is happy to commit to a long commute to play for this team. She lives in Mangawhai and works part-time in a Silverdale gym, while rep trainings are in Whangarei on Tuesday nights and in Kaikohe on Thursday nights.

“Everyone is doing the hard yards,” she says.
Under former Black Fern Cheryl Smith (nee Waaka) as the head coach, there is a good culture building within the squad.

“Cheryl has been fantastic. She’s your old school, hearty kind of coach, doesn’t take it easy. It’s a great culture she’s set for us, expecting the best from every player. The stage is set,” says Tupe.

Everyone’s a winner in the Championship section, with the top two qualifiers going straight to the semifinals, while those placed 3-6 will contest quarter-finals. Where do Northland’s expectations sit?

“Girls of the north, we’re really competitive, so we want to go out and win it. We haven’t had much time together, but that’s where we want to end up.”

That journey starts on Saturday when Northland travels to Napier to face the Hawke’s Bay Tui. Something tells me they will go alright.