Warriors to begin 2021 NRL season in Australia

Publish Date
Saturday, 5 December 2020, 2:01PM
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By: Christopher Reive

The Warriors have put suggestions of them beginning their 2021 NRL campaign in New Zealand to bed, making the decision to again base themselves in Australia for the start of the season.

Warriors chief executive Cameron George today confirmed the club would be shipping out to Terrigal on the Central Coast for at least the first four rounds of the new season, which includes the club's first two home games - across the opening two rounds.

George said he remains hopeful the club will be in a position to return to Mt Smart Stadium for their third scheduled home fixture, which will be in round five. Whether borders open up during that time or not, George said the team would be staying in Australia for the first four rounds regardless.

"It's not what we want to do but it's what we have to do. Our priority is to ensure we do all we can to enable our team to be as well prepared as it can be for 2021," George said.

"It's a football decision that needs to be made now. We can't afford to speculate about what might or might not happen any longer. We need clarity for our players, staff and families.

"We'll keep abreast of the border situation and in early March will decide with the NRL what the best course of action is after the first four rounds, hopefully returning to New Zealand to play at Mt Smart for the first time since 2019 in round five."

The Warriors squad is currently split into two groups - with 14 members of the 2021 squad in Kiama, New South Wales, and the rest of the team in New Zealand - as they begin their preseason preparations.

The hope was to bring the squad together before the start of the season to get in some work as a full team, but with the club unable to get the players from Australia into New Zealand, they have had to make other plans.

"We tried to arrange a quarantine facility like other sporting bodies have done to bring our players from Australia to train here as a squad but our request was declined so we've had to adapt," George said.

The New Zealand-based group - players, coaching staff, management and their families should they choose to bring them - will arrive in Australia on January 3, with the team spending a month in Tamworth before moving on to Terrigal. Their first two home games will now be played at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford.

They will spend about three months at least across the Tasman before returning home for their game against the Manly Sea Eagles which, all going well, will be at Mt Smart Stadium.

"We're so desperate to be here and play in front of our fans," George said. "We take a lot of pride in what we do for them, we take a lot of pride in what we had to do this year but we want to come back and share that excitement with our fans at some stage. We needed to balance that out though with planning and de-risking the situation as best we could.

"But our eyes are set on that 9 April game here against Manly, so we're going to market with that and we're going to sell as if we're coming home."

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission