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The sacrifices that the Warriors made last season are now paying off, with the New Zealand-based side having become a club of choice for off-contract stars from rival teams.

New recruits Addin Fonua-Blake and Marcelo Montoya have revealed that they had offers from other clubs but the respect they developed for the Warriors after the team relocated to Australia last season to enable the NRL competition to continue swayed their decisions.

"There was a bit of interest from other clubs but I was grateful to get the opportunity to come and join the Warriors," Montoya said.

"If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have a job this year so they really sacrificed a lot for us to be able to earn a wage this year and it is a credit to the club and the players.

"That was a massive thing for me and I was so proud to join this club because of what they went through this year for the comp to go ahead."

The Warriors' 2020 season in review

Montoya, who has made 54 NRL appearances in four years at Canterbury, is one of seven new faces in the Warriors' squad for next season, along with Fonua-Blake, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Euan Aitken, Kane Evans, Bayley Sironen and Sean O’Sullivan.

All except Murdoch-Masila signed with the Warriors after the club moved to Tamworth on May 3 for a 14-day quarantine and then the Central Coast, where they stayed until the end of the season.

"I think you always respect the Warriors, and their club and the brand that they have, but especially what they did this year for the 2020 season to go ahead, it just goes to show their selflessness and literally putting the comp before themselves," Montoya said.

"Everyone would have been writing them off but they went well and they went very close to making the top eight so that just goes to show the character and desire to work hard."

Fonua-Blake was one of the most in-demand players on the transfer market after seeking a request from Manly but was impressed by what he saw at the Warriors.

"There is a lot of good things said about the Warriors and the culture here so it wasn’t that hard a decision when they asked me to come across," the Tongan prop said.

"I have been a big fan of what they are doing for a long time, they have got a lot of good young players coming through and obviously last season the sacrifices they made were pretty inspiring.

Analysing the Warriors' 2021 draw

"When they came knocking at the door there was a few other clubs but I thought why not give it a shot at the Warriors, they are a very proud club and hopefully we can go to the finals next year.

"I didn’t jump at it straight away, I assessed all the options but I just thought at the end of the day I like what the Warriors are about, what they have done and the direction they are heading."

The Warriors still face some uncertainty about the season ahead with quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand yet to begin.

The squad has been split into two groups in Auckland and Kiama on the NSW South Coast for pre-season training and will come together in Tamworth on January 3 before again being based on the Central Coast until April.

Tickets are on sale for the round-five clash with Manly at Mt Smart Stadium on April 9, which would be the Warriors' first game in New Zealand since 2019 but it depends on quarantine requirements for travellers from Australia being lifted.

The Warriors in pre-season training at Kiama.
The Warriors in pre-season training at Kiama. ©NRL Photos

O’Sullivan, who has joined the Warriors after two seasons in Brisbane, said the team had shown last season that they could cope with any challenges that arose.

"What the boys did last year was unbelievable, it was amazing," O’Sullivan said.

"Watching from afar it was inspiring so hopefully we can build on the back of what they created and keep on making strides forward."

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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