A series of meetings next week will decide the location where new Warriors coach Nathan Brown can finally introduce the club’s seven recruits to the remainder of the team and begin training together.
Brown, who completed 14 days of quarantine in Auckland, is training the club’s New Zealand-based players at Mt Smart Stadium, while assistant coaches Justin Morgan and Craig Hodges are working with the remainder of the squad in Kiama.
Warriors CEO Cameron George will meet NRL officials on Monday and then call the groups on either side of the Tasman together via Zoom next week to finalise plans for pre-season training in January.
At this stage, it appears likely the Warriors will be returning to Tamworth before trials against the Storm and Titans but nothing has been finalised and George said the club’s desire was to train and play in Auckland.
"It is all subject to the borders, naturally, and at this point in time they are shut so our plan in the event that there is no change is to go to Australia and join up with our Australian-based group," he said.
"The Australian-based players are in Kiama but due to the size of our group and the time of the year there is no chance of getting on the coast anywhere so we would be looking at Tamworth as a possible location if that is what we are going to do."
Among the Australian-based squad are Tongan forwards Addin Fonua-Blake and Ben Murdoch-Masila, prop Kane Evans, centres Euan Aitken and Marcelo Montoya, second-rower Bayley Sironen and halfback Sean O’Sullivan.
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In addition to the new signings, the Warriors will be bolstered by the return of Kiwis prop Leeson Ah Mau, who played just two games last season, and star wingers David Fusitu'a and Ken Maumalo, who returned to New Zealand for family reasons midway through the season.
If the Warriors are forced to again relocate to Australia next season the families of all players and staff will be able to join them as travel from New Zealand to NSW is now permitted.
George said any decision the Warriors make would include:
- Certainty about where the team would be based for a defined period of time;
- Players being able to have their families join them, and;
- Sticking with the decision so the team can prepare and play to their best ability.
"We have got a huge amount of new faces, a full new coaching unit and if I have learned something from this year it is to just control what you can control," George said.
"I think the club has a better understanding of what is important and what we can control whereas I think last season we were on the hop a lot of the time.
"I think the whole world was panicking, not just us, but this season I feel very much more in control of what we can do and as such that has given the players confidence that we are getting good plans in place for what lies ahead subject to the borders."
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George said the Warriors were yet to decide whether the venue for any "home" games in Australia would again be the Central Coast or Redcliffe as the club now has a partnership with the Dolphins.
However, the Warriors hope they will be able to play the opening two rounds of next season’s Telstra Premiership against Gold Coast and Newcastle at Mt Smart Stadium, as scheduled in the NRL draw released on Thursday.
Regardless, George said there was an expectation of success after the way the Warriors coped with the disruptions and uncertainty last season, which included the mid-year sacking of coach Stephen Kearney, to finish 10th.
NRL confident of NZ return, no player ‘bubble’ in 2021
"There is a lot of excitement and a lot of energy but there seems to be a real focus from the players who have been in our club for a while," George said.
"I sense that there a real belief in what the club is doing and what the playing group did last year. There seems to be a greater belief from what I have seen with the people that are here [in Auckland].
"The way that Nathan has messaged his expectations has been really loud and clear to the players and has said I can coach but I can only coach if you want to put in. I think that has got everyone up on their toes, training hard and ready to take on 2021 wherever we are."