Warriors staff members stranded in Australia have been humbled by the attempts of players to help them try to get to home to their families in New Zealand this year.
The nine staff have been separated from their partners and children since the Warriors relocated to Australia on January 3 and are unsure when they will get to see them again as there are no quarantine places available for Kiwis wanting to return to New Zealand.
Once the border re-opens, it will literally become a lottery for the Warriors staff as the New Zealand Government plans to draw names for the limited quarantine spots.
“It’s been incredibly hard,” Warriors football operations manager Dan Floyd said. “All I can do is talk to the kids on FaceTime. I am missing out on a hell of a lot.
“You can’t be a dad, you can’t be there for them. You can’t pick them up from school or sit down for dinner with them or hug them on the couch at night or take them for a bike ride.
“There are good and bad days. Some days they are OK and then the next day there is frustration, anger creeps in sometimes, they are upset and there are tears.
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“We realise that there are a lot of people in a similar boat at the moment, who are also trying to get home, but I can’t explain how tough it has been.”
Floyd has two daughters, aged nine and 13, while strength and conditioning coach Dayne Norton, head of performance Craig Twentyman and team manager Laurie Hale also have children in Auckland, and other staff have partners.
Some have already told the club they won’t be able to join the team in Redcliffe next year after almost two years away from their families, and seeing how difficult it has been for the staff at various times this season prompted Warriors players to launch a social media campaign.
In a plea on behalf of the “Real Warriors”, the likes of Tohu Harris, Jazz Tevaga and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak called on New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to “help our 9 fully vaccinated staff members to get home to our country, whom they have represented admirably and with pride”.
“Please help them get back to their families,” stated the post, which was also shared by Melbourne’s Kiwi hooker Brandon Smith.
Floyd said the staff were deeply appreciative of the players’ attempts to help.
“For them to see that we are struggling and take action on it was really humbling,” he said. “That was completely off their own back. That was something they wanted to do to help and words can’t express how grateful we were that they had a crack and tried for us.”
The NRL and Warriors are also working with Sport New Zealand to try to find a solution for the unique predicament faced by the club’s players and staff, along with a group of NRLW players who moved to Australia before the competition was postponed and want to return home.
Unlike the All Blacks, Black Caps and Kiwi Olympians, the Warriors were unable to apply for quarantine spots because there were no travel restrictions between Australia and New Zealand.
However, the trans-Tasman bubble was closed last month after the most recent COVID-19 outbreak in Auckland and places in managed quarantine, which could only be booked until the end of November, were full.
“They will tell everyone a date, so you jump online and put your name in the hat,” Floyd said.
"There could be 5000 people trying to get 1000 rooms and if you are lucky your name will pop up for one and if not bad luck.
“For example, we have got nine staff here who are trying to get home and three of them could get a room and the others miss it.”
The Warriors relocated to Tamworth on January 3 as the club’s Australian-based players and staff were unable to travel to New Zealand for pre-season training due to the Northern Beaches outbreak and it was decided they would be play home games in Gosford until April.
Their return to New Zealand was delayed until July and then pushed back until last month’s round 22 clash with Canterbury, which was cancelled after the competition shifted to Queensland at the start of the current outbreak in NSW.
“All the staff who want to go home went out and got double vaccinated, just in the hope that that would help,” Floyd said. “We have done everything we can, but there is still nothing at the moment.”