Warriors players have welcomed the introduction of a trans-Tasman bubble for quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand and are excited about playing a home match at a packed Mt Smart Stadium for the first time in almost two years.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday that arrivals into the country from Australia would no longer have to undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine from April 19 in a huge boost to the Warriors' hopes of returning home.
However, the Warriors have committed to remaining on the Central Coast until June 21, which coincides with the end of the second school term in NSW to minimise disruptions for the players and their families.
It is likely the club’s first match at Mt Smart Stadium would be on Friday, July 2 against St George Illawarra.
Warriors CEO Cameron George issued a statement on Tuesday to say it was a positive step towards the club returning home later in the NRL season.
"Today’s announcement of a travel bubble is cause for excitement but it doesn’t immediately affect our plans," he said.
"Our position is that we will stay in Australia until after playing Newcastle on June 19. We had discussions with the NRL and our players and staff about our plan to ensure we have some stability for the first 15 rounds of the season.
"Our desire hasn’t changed. We want to be back home as soon as it’s feasible so we can have our team playing in front of our families, members, fans and our supportive sponsors.
"When it’s safe to do so, we look forward to sharing the biggest homecoming party with everyone at Mount Smart Stadium but we need to be absolutely sure we will be able to travel to and from Australia with confidence to ensure our place in the competition isn’t jeopardised.
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"As we have done throughout we will keep monitoring the situation and will seek the best possible advice."
After their game on June 21 against the Knights, there is a break in the NRL schedule for State of Origin’s standalone second match at Suncorp Stadium on June 27, giving them time to relocate to Auckland.
"I’m sure it will be great not only for us but for all the fans back home," lock Jazz Tevaga said. "We haven’t played back home in almost two years so it will be good to get home.
"Hopefully we can continue doing well and get a packed house so that would be good."
The last Warriors home game was on August 30, 2019 against South Sydney, while the only elite rugby league in New Zealand last year was the November 7 Test between the Kiwi Ferns and Fetu Samoa.
Star forward Tohu Harris said it would be up to the NRL and Warriors management to determine when the team can return home but the players were keen to play in front of their home fans again.
"It will be pretty exciting, to be honest," Harris said. "Our fans back home deserve to be able to come to a game and watch us play and all of the players would be really excited to do that in front of our home crowd.
"There are a lot of things to go into it and we have got to make sure it is safe for us to go back without putting the competition in jeopardy.
"Overall, if it were to happen it would be great for the club and the fan base but it doesn’t really change for us, to be honest. We know the position we are in at the moment and if we get to go home that’s a bonus.
"At the moment we are pretty happy where we are and with the situation we are in but if we do get to go home that is a huge positive for us and the club."