The only international rugby league fixture this year is likely to be a women’s Test between the Kiwi Ferns and Fetu Samoa after the NZRL conceded attempts to organise Tests for the Kiwis against Tonga and Australia had become too difficult.
The Kiwis had been hoping to play the Kangaroos after the end-of-season State of Origin series, as well as Tests against Tonga in Auckland and Queensland, but border restrictions put paid to those plans as some players would need to spend up to six weeks in quarantine.
“As we always do, we would love to have played Australia but we realised pretty early on that that was not going to be possible with the season pushing into November,” New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters said
“We had been exploring playing Tonga on either or both sides of the Tasman and that now is simply not feasible given the well-being of our players and the challenges they have had this season, and also the lack of a trans-Tasman travel bubble - let alone one without quarantine.
“We are still hoping to have a Test between the Kiwi Ferns and Fetu Samoa in November and that is exciting because it will be the only live rugby league content in New Zealand this year.
“There are still a couple of COVID hurdles to jump but it is possible because the majority of our Kiwi Ferns players are New Zealand residents, whereas the majority of our Kiwis players are Australian residents.”
With players required to quarantine for 14 days each time they enter Australia or New Zealand, the likes of Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck would need to undergo the process three times if he returned home after the club’s NRL campaign and came back for the Test.
“To expect players to quarantine for two weeks on either side of the Tasman for a Test match is not something we would ask them to do and we have still got mass-gathering challenges in Australia as well and a COVID re-emergence in New Zealand,” Peters said.
There were also concerns about Storm players returning to Melbourne as they would be required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in NSW or Queensland if the border restrictions with Victoria remain unchanged.
The NRL is looking at ways to combat similar issues ahead of the opening State of Origin match in Adelaide on November 4 and the women’s State of Origin at Sunshine Coast Stadium on November 13.
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The South Australian Government is considering opening the state’s border to people from NSW and the ACT, as well as Queensland.
It remains unclear whether the Queensland Government will open the border to NSW before the state election on October 31.
Queensland-based NRLW players face similar challenges, with the Broncos unsure if they will need to relocate to NSW for the duration of the competition and those joining the Dragons, Roosters or Warriors unable to return home once they start training next week without needing to quarantine.