Basketball skills take TJ's rugby league career to new heights

Tanika-Jazz Noble-Bell was a gentle giant destined for a career in basketball before those around her finally caught up to her booming height as a talented teenager.

The 23-year-old stands at 173 centimetres and while she's not the tallest forward in the Warriors engine room these days, her days with a basketball have helped her when it comes to rugby league.

"I was a point guard or guard early on and I started getting shorter as I got older because everyone else shot up," Noble-Bell told NRL.com.  

"I went OK, made a few representative sides up until I was about 17. I didn't start playing rugby league until four years ago.

"Growing up with basketball helped me learn about awareness and just looking for space. I'm not one to run directly at people but focus on the gaps and busting through the line in between the opponents."

It's safe to say the Warriors forward isn't shy to express her thoughts after last year's inaugural NRLW campaign.

She watched on while playing for the Warriors as some of her Kiwi Ferns teammates were often glorified during the season as they turned out for Australian-based clubs.

The likes of Honey Hireme, who joined the Warriors this year, Teuila Fotu-Moala, Maitua Feterika, Kimiora Nati and Ngatokotoru Arakua left New Zealand to play for NRLW clubs in Australia.

"I feel like it's harder for us to make our name because we're not in Australia," Noble-Bell said.

"They're superstars over there but they're just normal players, like everyone else. They have more exposure because they're playing in Australia. They did one thing amazing and they're set to go.

"If someone does that this year they're probably set as well."

The Warriors will need to feed off Noble-Bell's pre-season attitude with many already writing off the side's hopes of a maiden NRLW premiership.

Warriors coach Luisa Avaiki will rely on several fresh faces to fill the void left by 11 players from last year's squad who were unsigned.

"I was looking at the photo last week and there's not many people left," Noble-Bell said.

"We need to be fitter, it was like a last-minute pull the team together experience last year. We've got a conditioner now and she's given us programs to work off. We're a lot better prepared than we were this time 12 months ago.

"And I feel like the team is more experienced, there are a lot more older people. It goes from 22 to 35 quick and that can only help us when the game is on the line."