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June homecoming clash with premiers cancelled

Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George says the New Zealand Government’s latest border announcement has forced the club to cancel the planned Mount Smart Stadium homecoming match against defending NRL premiers the Penrith Panthers on Saturday, June 18.

The clash was scheduled to be the Vodafone Warriors’ first game at home in 1023 days since they last played there against the South Sydney Rabbitohs on August 30, 2019.

But George said the Government’s announcement last week about phasing in the reopening of New Zealand’s borders had scuttled all hope of the June return.

“While the Government can speculate all it likes about these timings, it has, however, been proven over and over that there’s no place for guesswork in navigating this pandemic,” he said.

“We remain desperate to bring the team home to play at Mount Smart but it’s not possible to do so in June with the obstacles this Government has put in place. We’ve been forced into a corner.

“All we can do is work with the facts and the fact is it’s impossible to expect NRL teams to isolate for seven days after arriving in New Zealand. Penrith, for example, plays the previous Sunday so it can’t even do the seven days before our game.

All we can do is work with the facts and the fact is it’s impossible to expect NRL teams to isolate for seven days after arriving in New Zealand

Cameron George Vodafone Warriors CEO

“With the time frames involved we had to make this call now. There are so many moving parts to this like television schedules, venues, travel, accommodation and more.

“We can’t sit around speculating so once again, our fans, sponsors and the people of New Zealand miss out on live sporting content. The Government needs to correct the isolation process so Trans-Tasman sport can happen in New Zealand again.”

George remained hopeful the Vodafone Warriors would still play at Mount Smart Stadium at some stage this season with four other games scheduled for the venue against Wests Tigers (July 3), Melbourne Storm (July 29), Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs (August 12) and Gold Coast Titans (September 3).

“Hopeful is all we can be. July is meant to be the next step towards reconnecting the world to New Zealand but no one can be certain that will work out,” said George.

Throughout this pandemic we have consistently made decisions based on facts

Cameron George Vodafone Warriors CEO

“Throughout this pandemic we have consistently made decisions based on facts.

“While we’ve wanted to come home, our priority has been to ensure we have stability for our players and families while also doing what’s best for the competition.”

The Vodafone Warriors are based in Redcliffe north of Brisbane for the 2022 NRL season. They have trials against Melbourne on February 19 and Gold Coast on February 26 before their first-round encounter with the St George Illawarra Dragons at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday, March 12.

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