Mangakahia re-signs to weave NBL1 magic with Wizards

November 30, 2022 | Sydney Flames news

By Lachlan Everett

After playing in Russia at the start of the war and still adjusting to life after breast cancer, the NBL1 North MVP Tiana Mangakahia says the league gave her the confidence to return to the WNBL with the Sydney Flames.

Mangakahia was one of the first players to re-sign for NBL1 2023, signing a two-year deal with the Northside Wizards.

She averaged 28 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.7 assists for the finals squad and says the NBL1 made her believe she could make her return to the WNBL.

“After everything I’ve been through, I’m still coming back from everything,” she said.

“[NBL1] just gave me confidence and reassurance that I can get back to where I used to be before I was diagnosed.

“Because I think, yeah, it’s hard sometimes when you come back and you just go back to how I used to play, especially coming into this WNBL season.”


Mangakahia is playing alongside two NBL1 North young guns with the WNBL’s Sydney Flames, the recently signed Lilly Rotunno and one of the key pieces of Logan’s bench in their undefeated regular season, Indiah Bowyer.

While they competed against each other in the NBL1 North, Mangakahia says they’ve become close in Sydney and it’s helped all of them adjust to their new team and city.

“It’s actually awesome, I didn’t really know them that well in Queensland,” she said.

“But since they’ve been down here, I feel so much closer to them. We can have conversations because we basically know all the same people.

“It’s really nice having them here, I’m just trying to take them under my wing and kind of help them adjust. I think it’s a big, big step up from NBL1 to WNBL and they’re doing amazing and I’m so glad that you’re here with us.”

In a recent interview, WNBL legend and Canberra Capitals coach Nat Hurst said the gap is getting smaller and smaller between the NBL1 and the WNBL. But from a player’s perspective, Mangakahia explained what the key differences for her are.

“I personally feel that training is key, in NBL1 we train twice a week. Here (WNBL) we train like five times a week, it’s really intense,” she said.

“I think that’s a huge difference. It’s a big difference in training schedules. And then the physicality, even in our first three games the physicality tougher here.”

Mangakahia is best friends with Cairns Taipans star Keanu Pinder, they were both on the women’s and men’s sides for the Wizards this past season. She explained what the community is like at Northside and why she’s excited to return.

“It was amazing, that was my second season at Northside and especially having Keanu (Pinder) made it fun,” she said.

“On the road trips, we all just really got along. On my team in particular, we went to trainings with the U12 and U14 girls before they would go off the state champs.”

“At Northside, the juniors is huge. Our general manager makes a big effort for us to go watch the juniors go support them. I just think like the family environment, it just comes naturally, especially when my team is filled with QSL girls. The club in itself is very welcoming.”

She is one of three Wizards who have re-signed for 2023 for so, joining Kelsey McDermott and Alice O’Driscoll. Mangakahia explained how much they have both grown this past season and is looking forward to reuniting with them.

“I think Alice improved so much in that season. She can improve an enormous amount and I’m just excited to see her grow as a player,” she said.

“Same thing for Kelsey, I’d say this season we can get the ball in her hands, she’s a good shooter so that would help us.”