The Warriors plan to move out of the NRL hub on the Gold Coast they will share with Canberra, Canterbury, Parramatta and South Sydney after deciding to remain in South-East Queensland until the end of the season.
As Warriors players and their families began packing for the team’s relocation from Terrigal to the Gold Coast, CEO Cameron George revealed on Monday that they would not be returning and had also cancelled the August 15 homecoming match at Mt Smart Stadium against the Bulldogs.
The decision means Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has played his last NRL game on New Zealand soil and will not receive the farewell he deserves from home fans before switching codes in a bid to make the All Blacks team for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
No sporting team has been as impacted by COVID-19 as the Warriors and the Auckland-based club are on the move for the fifth time in 18 months to help ensure the Telstra Premiership continues but George said would now remain in Queensland for the rest of the season.
"It is unfortunate, but we had to be proactive here just to remove ourselves from the uncertainty and provide as much stability as we could to our club, our fans, our members and commercial partners,” George said of the sold-out match against Canterbury.
Episode 20 - NRL relocates, plus Origin III preview with Andrew Johns
"It is something we have strived so hard to organise, but it has just been taken out of our hands. We are relocating to the Gold Coast on Wednesday and as a club we are going to remain in South-East Queensland until the end of the season."
The Warriors have 23 staff on the Central Coast but only 11 will be allowed to join the players in the hub, while partners and children need to isolate separately from the team for two weeks after their arrival in Queensland.
George said some families may not make the move as players’ partners or wives had jobs on the Central Coast or their children were in school.
However, those who do make the trip to the Gold Coast will move into accommodation away from the other NRL teams after two weeks.
"It is pretty scary what is going on, it is escalating rapidly, things are moving quickly with decisions and getting told Sunday night that we are moving interstate on Wednesday, we have got to pack up the whole environment," George said.
"We are allowed to take 30 players and 11 staff into the bubble, and the families which wish to join us have to isolate separately when they get to the Gold Coast for two weeks.
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"Subject to government approvals and everything heading in the right direction, they will then reconnect with the group.
"Because we are staying on for the rest of the year, we will facilitate living arrangements for each player and their family."
With the ever changing COVID-19 situation, George said the next challenge for the Warriors will be ensuring they can return to New Zealand at the end of the season.
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"Everyone was dreaming about it [the Bulldogs game], everyone was really excited about it and the players, I know deep down, were so keen to make sure they were fit and ready to go there and do the best they could for the fans," George said.
"They are so desperate to hear the New Zealand fans and I know the New Zealand fans were so desperate to take their seat in a sold-out crowd and cheer on the Vodafone Warriors in Roger’s last home game."