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Warriors make Redcliffe 2022 base but hope to play games at Auckland

The Warriors will be based in Redcliffe for the 2022 NRL season but are planning to play up to half of their home games in New Zealand.

While CEO Cameron George said returning to Mt Smart Stadium for 2022 was the preference, that option had become unrealistic due to the ongoing border volatility created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The club will aim to play six home games back at Mt Smart next season on a fly-in, fly-out basis, likely in the later parts of the season when borders are more likely to be open.

But rather than waiting and hoping for things to change so the team could return home sooner, it was important for the players and their families to get some certainty around next year as soon as possible to make housing and schooling arrangements after moving five times in 10 months through the pandemic.

"I feel like the stress of this year has been greater than last year," George said.

"It's been harder in a lot of ways and it's sort of all hit us in the last couple of weeks to be honest.

"We've got to get the personal life as stable as possible to enhance the professional side of things."

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After spending most of 2020 and 2021 in camp in Terrigal on the NSW Central Coast, George said the ARL Commission and the NRL had approved the Warriors' second-choice option to move their operation to Queensland.

"Our last couple of years through COVID has issued a number of challenges to the club and none greater than where we're located," he said.

"The club's been working alongside the NRL in the last couple of months and has had to make a few decisions and the decision we've settled on now is for 2022 season we will be based at Redcliffe.

"Our dream hasn't changed. We'd love to be back in Auckland playing at home in front of our families, members, fans and sponsors next year but we also have to ensure everyone here has some stability in their lives.

"With the pre-season starting in early November we don't have much time to work with.

"We can't get our players, staff and families back to New Zealand in the foreseeable future so we need to have a base here, not to mention considering all the needs of our players, families and staff like accommodation, schools and job opportunities for partners."

George said the club's partnership with the Redcliffe Dolphins was the key to the proposal.

"We will sleep, train, work from there. Our intention is to play six games in Redcliffe next year then with all hope and things going our way and borders open we can take six games back to our great home at Mt Smart in New Zealand," he said.

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"Our members and fans have waited so long. We had to cancel plans to play the Bulldogs in Auckland in August and that really hurt.

"We're just hoping the landscape will settle down to enable us to play five or six of our home games in New Zealand during the 2022 season."

As the Warriors' feeder club, Redcliffe has provided a platform through its Intrust Super Cup for six players to make their NRL debuts this year: Rocco Berry, Reece Walsh, Edward Kosi, Taniela Otukolo, Viliami Vailea and Jackson Frei.

"We wanted to start the off-season strongly, train together as one group and be stable next year," George said.

"Our club is really committed to this decision, it's not the ideal one, not the preferred one but it's one that makes a lot of sense when we looked at all the key objectives, to train as one.

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"There's children that need to go to school and make friends at school and not fear the fact they're going to be moved again in the near future. We've got to get the personal life as stable as possible to enhance the professional side of things."

Having the entire squad and their families living in each others' pockets 24/7 had not been easy, and allowing players to make their own living arrangements was an important part of getting a feeling of normality back.

The same went for support staff, who had also been away from their families for far longer than anticipated.

There was a sense of relief amongst the group once the announcement was made, George added.

"The moving round creates so much instability … I've seen children start school and have to move again, I've seen partners try and get work but be unable to because of the short-term nature," he said.

"It's been really difficult on that personal aspect.

"We wanted to eliminate as much of that risk and movement as possible and settle on a location that will allow everyone to be more stable."