Warriors fans have begun buying tickets for the team’s April "homecoming" against Manly with renewed confidence after the announcement of quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand early next year.
The club is now all but certain to play it first NRL game at Mt Smart Stadium in 20 months in round five but the Warriors will still relocate to Australia for the pre-season and first four matches of the Telstra Premiership.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a media conference in Wellington on Monday that a trans-Tasman travel bubble was due to begin in the first quarter of 2021, enabling NRL teams to play in Auckland without needing to quarantine.
The announcement comes after the Warriors began selling tickets last Friday for the round-five April 9 clash with the Sea Eagles and the round-eight fixture against North Queensland on May 2.
The Warriors have not played at Mt Smart Stadium since August 30, 2019 and officials are hopeful of strong support at home next season after a big turnout for a members' day in Auckland on Saturday.
The best (or worst) bombed tries from the 2020 season
With 18 players based at Kiama on the NSW South Coast due to quarantine requirements in New Zealand, the entire Warriors squad will relocate to Tamworth on January 3 for a pre-season training camp before moving to Gosford until early April.
The club has transferred their first two home matches to Central Coast Stadium after committing to training and playing in Australia until after their round-four clash with the Sydney Roosters on April 4, which coincides with the end of the first school term in NSW.
The Prime Minister's announcement that the New Zealand Cabinet had agreed a trans-Tasman bubble would open early next year means the Warriors will not be required to quarantine for 14 days when they return to Auckland.
However, Warriors CEO Cameron George said the club intended to stick with the plan to spend the first three months of next year in Australia as he and owner Mark Robinson wanted to provide certainty for the players and their families.
"Nothing’s changed from our end," George said. "At this stage we don’t know when and what the bubble will look like.
"We have certainty and that’s all we’re concerned about. It’s one thing to open the borders but we also need confidence they’re going to remain open."
The NRL has been working with the Warriors to map out a plan for next season.
The best steps from the 2020 season
"It was important for them that the club, players and officials had certainty so they will relocate to Australia, play the pre-season here in Australia and the first couple of rounds regardless of when the travel bubble opens," NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said.
"If it opens earlier than that they'll still remain here and they'll be back at Mt Smart Stadium in round five."
The match against Manly is being promoted as a "homecoming party" but fans are being advised "in the event tickets for the game or the Cowboys fixture cannot be fulfilled due to COVID-19 restrictions they will be transferred to the first available New Zealand home game" or refunded.
Analysing the Warriors' 2021 draw
The trans-Tasman bubble will open in the first quarter of 2021 but a precise starting date will be confirmed in the new year.
Australia's Cabinet needed to sign off on details of the travel bubble and it would depend on the COVID-19 situation in both countries not changing.
Contingency plans for an outbreak in Australia or New Zealand were among the logistical issues Ms Ardern said still needed to be worked through.