Pregnancy & Birth

Basketball stars Tyrell and Kelani's baby joy

After a romantic proposal, sporty couple Tyrell and Kalani are expecting a girl

By Leena Tailor
Smashing open a pineapple with a samurai sword to unveil an explosion of pink confetti made for one unique, unforgettable gender reveal for Kiwi athletes Tyrell Harrison and Kalani Purcell. Yet it's surprising the couple didn't opt to slice open a basketball while brainstorming creative ways to mark the moment!
Basketball stars both in Aotearoa and Australia, the expectant parents admit the sport rules their lives, which is why Kalani was shocked to learn she was pregnant.
The youngest of seven basketball-playing siblings (including ex-Tall Ferns Charmian Mellars and Natalie Taylor), she dreamed of a professional basketball career from age six and made the Tall Ferns by 18.
Tyrell, 23, meanwhile was born into a rugby-mad home in Brisbane. But he discovered basketball at 15, began development training with the Brisbane Bullets in high school and has played for the team since. He recently joined New Zealand's Tall Blacks as the couple prepare to welcome their daughter here during the Australian off-season.
Tyrell in action for the Brisbane Bullets.
It was during an off-season that the two met through an awkward set-up. "Mutual friends invited us to a house party, but it ended up just four of us," chuckles Kalani, 28.
Having just broken off an engagement, Kalani's biggest lesson was not to rush relationships, so it was another year before she and Tyrell started hanging out. Bonding over food, movies and basketball, they became besties before officially starting to date in 2019.
With Kalani playing for the Melbourne Boomers, their romance was challenged by lengthy stints apart. "Starting out a relationship long-distance was tough," admits Kalani. "But we made time for each other and we'd fly to each other on days off. In the off-season, we'd try to be in the same area, normally Brisbane, so that was nice to be in the same city for six months."
When Covid hit, they explored the opposite of long-distance – moving in together in Brisbane, where Kalani soon realised, "This is my person."
Tyrell felt the same, especially when they were apart. "I missed the little stuff," he says. "Being in her presence made me feel happy and better, so I went, 'I'm gonna marry this girl!'"
After Tyrell popped the question, an emotional Kalani cried for 30 minutes.
Consulting Kalani's sister, Tyrell then picked up Kalani from the airport during a 2022 Brisbane visit, with grand plans for an outdoor proposal.
"But it was rainy, super-cloudy and I was late," he laughs. "We ended up going to South Bank and I got a cabana suite on a hotel rooftop. Then I made the room all pretty with rose petals and candles."
Continues Kalani, "When I walked in, I thought, 'This is so cute. He's trying to be romantic.' We'd talked about marriage a few days earlier and he brushed it off, so I figured we wouldn't discuss it again for a while. So it was a massive shock – I cried for
30 minutes!"
The plan was to focus on preparing for the 2024 Olympics before planning a wedding, however, both were put on the backburner after Kalani began feeling nauseous and discovered she was pregnant. And while Tyrell was thrilled, Kalani admits
the news rattled her. "I've had to make myself unavailable for things which would've been preparation for the Olympics, so it's hard to watch things I could've been part of. But I've been wanting a break for two years, so this probably came at the best time."
While Tyrell envisioned having a boy – "I come from a rugby household so I wanted an openside flanker!" – he's excited to welcome his "little princess" and predicts he'll be "good cop". Says the excited dad-to-be, "She's gonna get whatever she wants!"
The pair plan to teach their daughter about her heritage – Tyrell is part Māori, Scottish and Italian, while Kalani has Samoan and Dutch roots. "We want her to know her identity, history and whakapapa on both sides," says Tyrell, who's of Ngāti Porou descent.
Kalani can't wait to get back on the court.
Once Kalani and the baby are ready, the trio will head to Brisbane, where Tyrell will rejoin the Bullets. Fortunately, he has recovered from a career-threatening medical crisis, which saw him playing through pain for two years, before undergoing risky surgery.
"I was in pain all day and night and it got to a stage where I didn't see a light at the end of the tunnel," tells Tyrell. "I'd had all this treatment and seen specialists, but it wasn't getting better. The surgeon went, 'We have one last resort, but there are no guarantees it'll work', which was scary.
But it was the best decision because they found a cyst and removed it, and I was finally in no pain.
"It means a lot now I'm becoming a dad because when our kids start running around and playing sports, I want to be mobile and fit enough to play and create those memories."
Competing in the Olympic Games also remains a goal for Tyrell. Meanwhile, Kalani plans to return to the court only once she feels ready.
"Having a girl drives me even more to continue playing, so she can see me still chasing my dream of being a professional athlete," she says. "I want her to understand that females can play sport, start families and have it all!"
  • undefined: Leena Tailor

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