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Vodafone Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney spoke to Yvonne Sampson, Matt Johns and Michael Ennis on Fox League Mornings in Australia today about the challenges he and the club's players now face.

This story was published on www.foxsports.com.au

In all the madness that the NRL’s shutdown on Monday evening has created, spare a thought for Warriors coach Stephen Kearney who had to fly back with his side to New Zealand rather than stay with his family in Queensland.

Speaking exclusively to Fox Sports’ League Live, Kearney revealed that he had to “tidy up a few things” in Auckland and therefore had to fly back to New Zealand on Tuesday instead of joining his family in Brisbane during one of the world’s biggest crisis’ since war time.

“My family’s actually back in Brisbane,” Kearney told League Live on Wednesday.

“I came back with the group, with the team yesterday to tidy up a few things back here and I’ll try to get back to Brisbane in the next week or so.”

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Since taking on the Warriors coaching role in 2017, Kearney’s family has been based in Brisbane, where he was previously an assistant coach at the Broncos.

Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic where borders are closed and self-isolation periods are in place either side of the ditch, Kearney will have to be on his own for the next two weeks before he can be reunited with his family.

“There’s no doubt it’s been a challenge (being away from the family) through this whole journey working over here with the Warriors,” Kearney said.

“This has just added another level to it.

“I think in times like these, as we would all know, you want to be closer to the ones that love you most and not to be able to do that (is hard).

“I’m here on battling on my Pat Malone and not doing a great deal. I got some dumb bells from the footy club last night, so I’ll be working out in my garage over the next couple of weeks, star jumps, walking up the stairs a 1000 times.

“It’s been a challenge.

“My wife back home whose got our two girls (has) been looking after them, it’s been a challenge.”

The entire Warriors squad returned from Queensland to Auckland on Tuesday.

Their return comes after a difficult start to the season, where they were held to nil against the Knights in their opening round before being well-beaten by the Raiders 20-6 at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.

Usually a side 0-2 would want to get closer but with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lifting the alert system to four at midnight tonight, they will be forced to be separated with the entire country in total lockdown.

“We got back last night and we’re on the 14-day self-isolation,” Kearney said.

“It means we can go out for a walk, but we just can’t go near anyone. We can go run down to the park, but we just can’t go near anybody.

“Someone else has to go and get your groceries for you.

“As of midnight tonight, the whole country is on lockdown apart from the essential services – the supermarket's open, the pharmacy, but apart from that she’s going to be a quiet time for the next four weeks.”

A restless time for anyone, in particular for a hungry Warriors squad desperate to let out some steam.

But Kearney says the squad understands the importance of staying inside at present, which means the club will be going old school.

“We’ve got 14 days where boys pretty much have to be locked up and then for the next two weeks the country’s on lockdown,” he said.

“Our footy club will be locked up as of five o'clock tonight. Mt Smart Stadium, where we do all our training, will be locked up won’t be opening up for four weeks.

“We’re working through that with our high performance manager and we’re going to try to manage that the best we can and it’s an opportunity for the lads to have a bit of a break, but you can’t do a great deal when you can’t leave the house for 14 days.

“So it’s going to be a challenge. Probably doing squats in the garage by yourself.

“We’re just going to try to manage it that way – it’s difficult times.”

Difficult times, indeed, and a glimpse into what it will be like for the NRL stars of today.

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The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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