"It's the best decision for me now."
Star Newcastle recruit Tamika Upton is confident her move to the Knights will excel her NRLW career and insists there was nothing more to her exit from the Broncos.
The Knights confirmed the two biggest signings made by an NRLW club in the competition’s four-year history on Wednesday with Upton to join Dally M co-Female Player of the Year Millie Boyle in wearing red and blue for the 2022 season later this year.
The Hunter club will be the big movers in the player market in the coming months ahead of the fifth NRLW season and after a winless inaugural campaign earlier this year.
Upton, one of the best fullbacks in the women’s game, was approached by the Knights after Brisbane’s fourth campaign ended with a shock semi-final loss to the Roosters in April.
She was given the royal treatment by the club which included a 20-minute video session with Blake Green and Adam O’Brien, along with chats to Danny Buderus, Knights captain Kalyn Ponga and his father Andre.
“It wasn’t ever on the radar to leave the Broncos, it was all very unplanned,” Upton told NRL.com.
“I love the Broncos and have been there for three years. I am very settled in Queensland so it was nothing to do with them specifically, it’s just the way it’s turned out.
Knights unveil Boyle and Upton as 2022 marquee signings
“When I got approached by the Knights I never thought much of it. As women we haven’t had this opportunity much before to know how a lot of it works.
“I went in with an open mind and travelled down to Newcastle for the day. When I walked out of the club that afternoon I knew it was a genuine option.
“I could see myself playing there and I’m confident it’s the best decision for me. I’m 25 and it’s the perfect time to go and do something like this.
“I’m at a stage where I want to play my best footy and what I experienced at the club doing video and chatting to people around the club I think it’s going to be big for my development.
“Blake Green has helped heaps already and we haven’t even started. Adam O’Brien sat in on video and has sent messages back and forth around what I should be thinking about in club footy.
“That stuff is a big pull for me. Everyone wants to get better and learn.”
Upton’s switch to the Knights has been boosted by the luring of Boyle, with the pair sharing a close friendship after they moved in together while at the Broncos.
Boyle has since moved to Canberra to be with her partner, Raiders forward Adam Elliott, with Upton insisting there were no discussions between each other, or the trio, to link up at the one club.
“It was very much an individual thing. I made the decision for my own game, I didn’t know who else was coming. I did the visit to Newcastle but Millie didn’t experience anything like that,” Upton said.
“She’s made her own decision and I did mine, it’s worked out really good. I love playing alongside her, she brings leadership and she’ll bring plenty to the group.”
Upton joins the Knights as a marquee player alongside Boyle, meaning their salaries count outside the NRLW's new $350,000 salary cap that comes into play for the 2022 season.
It also means their arrivals will come with added pressure — something Upton is getting used to in the women’s game and also ready to embrace at Newcastle.
“When we were in primary school there were these footy boots, NRL themed available. My mum’s team is the Knights from the Joey Johns days,” Upton said.
“I must’ve been in trouble or something because I’ve picked the Knights boots to try and impress her. It’s a bit of a funny coincidence and this week I went to look for the photo of me in them.
"A fair few of my family members are fans of the Knights and they haven’t even experienced the club so I can’t wait for them to come down [from Rockhampton] to a game and see it.
“I know how much the town gets behind the team and I’m really ready to embrace that.”
Newcastle are expected to announce further signings in the coming weeks, potentially including several premiership-winning Roosters players from the region.
Despite not winning a game in their debut season in the NRLW competition, Upton assured Knights fans there were brighter times ahead on the horizon.
“They were unlucky last season — they had it toughest with relocating players and having Blake Green in charge and then he couldn’t coach after the postponement,” she said. "They hung in there well.
"I think for myself: I’m keen to bring some experience. We've got a lot of young girls and have done some good recruiting with their Tarsha Gale Cup squad.
“I just absolutely can’t wait to run out there and get started.”
The 2022 NRLW competition will begin in August.