GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 17: Players warm up during a New Zealand Warriors NRL training session at Cudgen Leagues Club on March 17, 2020 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 17: Players warm up during a New Zealand Warriors NRL training session at Cudgen Leagues Club on March 17, 2020 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Warriors make final call on their NRL season

The NRL season will continue with all 16 teams after the New Zealand Warriors committed to remain in Australia following a crisis meeting on Friday morning

Warriors boss Cameron George said on Thursday the side were giving serious consideration to leaving Australia after their 'home' match against the Canberra Raiders on the Gold Coast on Saturday.

The Warriors had all but committed to remaining in Australia but the change in border policy from the respective New Zealand and Australian governments threw that into question.

A meeting between players and staff on Friday morning paved the way for the team to play out the NRL season.

"Our players and staff have been so courageous the way they have stood up in the face of such huge adversity," George said.

Warriors CEO Cameron George speaks to the media at Mount Smart Stadium. Photo: Dave Rowland/Getty Images
Warriors CEO Cameron George speaks to the media at Mount Smart Stadium. Photo: Dave Rowland/Getty Images

"Despite the impact of the coronavirus crisis and being away from their families, they're making enormous sacrifices for the fans and the game.

"We're just so proud of the way they're representing our club. It couldn't be any tougher for them but they're not letting it show by giving their undertaking to stay in Australia and do their best to represent the Vodafone Warriors and keep the competition going."

George had said on Thursday he held real fears the players would decide to return home this weekend.

"We're certainly going to regroup in the morning and make our final decision and make it known to the NRL," George said.

"If we were talking at midday (on Thursday) I would've said we were all systems go. But that's changed. The situation has changed.

 

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"I've just said 'Look, let's just get through (Thursday night), get up tomorrow (Friday) and let's have a clear head and make a real good decision for everyone.

"But I'll never take away what we are which is human beings and we're family men and they're important for us and the club and we've got to try and balance that out with our other obligations as well."

The Warriors had intended to fly players' family from New Zealand and be with the team as their stay in Australia is open-ended.

But a travel ban on all non-Australians entering the country caused havoc with that plan.

"In the space of two hours it's been thrown into turmoil," George told ABC Grandstand.

"We have a lot of Kiwis, naturally, Tongans, Samoans, playing in our group amongst Australians.

 

Kodi Nikorima fires off a pass at the Warriors’ home away from home at at Cudgen Leagues Club on the Gold Coast this week. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
Kodi Nikorima fires off a pass at the Warriors’ home away from home at at Cudgen Leagues Club on the Gold Coast this week. Picture: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

 

"We've got four different nationalities trying to work out whether we can go to one country or another country and it's presented a huge amount of challenges tonight and we're just still working through those and hopefully with a bit of assistance from the NRL we can get some clarity on a few things.

"The thing about it all is it was so unplanned and the nature of the world at the moment is very erratic and it changes dramatically. So no one can control what's going on and we're doing our best as a playing group to represent our club, our fans and the game of rugby league and commit as much as we can."

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The Warriors have a big decision to make. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
The Warriors have a big decision to make. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

The NRL has already publicly stated the competition would continue if the Warriors were unable to field a side with the games regarded as byes.

George said some players may remain and play on and others could depart, meaning they would need to loan players from other clubs or sign those without an NRL contract to field a team.

"That's another avenue we've been working with the NRL to try and play our part in keeping this competition alive, how can we backfill our roster if that is the case," George said.

"It'll be a collective decision (today). I have a position as an executive in the club, the owner will be involved, the coaching staff and the players but at the end of the day it's about our club."

Originally published as Warriors make final call on their NRL season