Rugby League: New Zealand Warriors pull pin in June comeback, still hoping for Mt Smart fixtures in 2022
Warriors CEO Cameron George. Photo / Photo port
The Warriors remain hopeful of playing games in New Zealand this year, despite the cancellation of their scheduled first game back.
That match, scheduled for June 18 against the Penrith Panthers, would go on to be their first home game in over 1,000 days.
But the club reluctantly pulled the pin on Friday, following the government’s announcement last week about the gradual reopening of New Zealand’s borders.
“We always made the right decision based on the facts in place right now,” Warriors general manager George said. “We cannot speculate and the government has given us no confidence that transtasman sport can take place within this timeframe. So in the interests of stability, our football team and players, we are removing the game from the New Zealand in June.”
George told the Herald last month that he was already working on a “plan B” for the five scheduled Mt Smart encounters, given the continuing uncertainty.
It is likely the game will now be played at their Redcliffe base in 2022, although this is yet to be confirmed.
George said they had to make the call this week, due to demands from stakeholders, broadcasters and opposition teams. He explained that even if the NRL teams could train during the isolation period – which is currently not possible – the June 18 game would still be a non-runner, as the Panthers do not only have five days before that match.
Other games scheduled for Mt Smart this year are Wests Tigers (July 3), Melbourne Storm (July 29), Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs (August 12) and Gold Coast Titans (September 3).
A decision on July matches will need to be made in the next two to three months and George hopes the border requirements will be clearer.
“As things stand, the only indication we have is that things will be constantly reviewed,” George said. “But being looked at could mean it’s three days, seven days or five days or it could even go up and back to when the border closes. So we’re going to be in a position where we need to know by April [or] May at the latest for July.”
George said that even if the entry requirements were reduced to a three-day isolation period, it would not be viable for opposing teams.
“They have their training regimes and it’s unfair of them to expect self-isolation,” George said. “It’s starting to ruin their training week and their ability to perform at the level they need.”
The Warriors continue to work with Sport New Zealand, but George said the government needs to take a more holistic approach to transtasman travel.
“[They need to] creating corridors for sport and business to enter and leave New Zealand with the aim of either injecting into the economy in a commercial sense or providing live content for communities to enjoy,” said George.
“Having a blanket approach for sports teams or business-oriented people won’t work in the current circumstances.”