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Warriors ready for another Australian lockdown if NRL gets exemptions

Warriors players have begun preliminary discussions around moving from one lockdown scenario to another to cross the Tasman and continue playing in a rescheduled 2020 season.

Any return to Australia and the NRL will hinge on the game's ongoing negotiations with the New Zealand government around travel exemptions for Warriors players and staff.

Stephen Kearney and his players are due to complete their mandatory 14-day overseas isolation on Wednesday under New Zealand's strict government protocols, which has kept them housebound for the past two weeks.

The nationwide lockdown means they will now only be able to leave for exercise, supermarket trips and medical services.

It's a scenario that also looms across the NRL with isolation "bubbles" being explored to minimise the risk of coronavirus being contracted by a player or official, and one CEO Cameron George says his players are willing to commit to.

"We've had preliminary discussions around what it's going to be," George told

Tohu Harris working out in his backyard.
Tohu Harris working out in his backyard. ©

"When you don't know what it, is it's hard to give the players something hard and fast, but we're committed to being in the comp.  We're still committed just as we were at the start of the year and that hasn't wavered.

"It'll be a deployment exercise from New Zealand to Australia and that will be to get the job done for our club and fans."

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and ARL chairman Peter V'landys have said a 15-team competition could continue without the Warriors.

But in the same breath they are at pains to acknowledge the Warriors' willingness to stay in Australia in rounds one and two, and have repeatedly told the club everything in the NRL's power will be done to keep them in the competition.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has indicated her government won't stand in the way of the NRL resuming, though it remains unclear whether exemptions to Queensland's border controls would be granted to travelling teams.

George said he had no doubt the NRL would do everything possible to bring them across the ditch, but he fears international biosecurity measures may keep his players grounded in New Zealand.

"We do really appreciate the efforts of Peter V'landys, Todd Greenberg and the NRL, they've made it clear everything will be done to keep us in the competition," George said.

"I know there's no questioning the effort there because they want us there.

"We're absolutely committed to being there but you ask me 'am I worried?' Of course I'm worried, because at the end of the day, these are international constraints around the world that we're dealing with, and sometimes things do happen above your control.

"We were the first country to go into lockdown, you can't underestimate that, and the fact we were the first country to shut borders.

"Hopefully things do keep going to plan and we do see some restrictions lifted. Of course, we're going to work with whatever government agency we need to but it's not a given that it can happen, that's the reality of it."

Warriors rookie Eliesa Katoa is crunched in round two against Canberra.
Warriors rookie Eliesa Katoa is crunched in round two against Canberra. ©Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos

Shots of All Blacks five-eighth Richie Mo'unga and Crusaders teammates flouting New Zealand's strict lockdown rules prompted a rebuke from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday, and a memo from George to Warriors players to stay indoors.

Meanwhile, the Warriors have welcomed almost $NZ500,000 in government wage subsidies that will ensure it keeps as many employees as possible on over the NRL's shutdown period.

Given the level-4 lockdown of the country, the government has delivered $6.6 billion to more than 40% of the nation's workforce, with finance minister Grant Robertson expecting those figures to increase markedly.

It's understood all employees including George and coach Kearney have agreed to sizeable pay cuts to ensure the club's 90 staff members can remain on deck until the competition restarts.

"We've got a three-month plan at the moment and the government subsidy gives us room to breathe with our salaries across the club for the next while," George said.

"It enables us to take a deep breath and when we know what the competition looks like we can go from there again."

Acknowledgement of Country

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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