The New Zealand Warriors have been forced to cancel their homecoming game and now they’re issuing a “desperate” plea for help.
New Zealand Warriors chief executive Cameron George has issued a desperate plea to Jacinda Ardern’s government, demanding the Prime Minister “correct the isolation process” that is barring Kiwi teams from returning home to play.
The Warriors are preparing to base themselves in Australia for a third consecutive season, with their return date to Auckland still very much up in the air.
Despite verbal assurance from New Zealand Minister for Sport Grant Robertson that the Warriors would be able to return home this season, George confirmed on Friday that the government’s plans for gradual reopening had left the Warriors no choice but to cancel their June 18 homecoming game.
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The match against Penrith was due to be the Warriors’ first at Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium in 1023 days and was pencilled in after the club was forced to cancel its original homecoming game last season.
George said the Warriors were as “desperate” as ever to play in front of their fans.
“While the government can speculate all it likes about these timings, it have 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.”
The New Zealand government’s plan for reopening does not include a specific date at which self-isolation periods will be scrapped entirely for Australian visitors, leading George to declare that the Ardern government had “impossible” expectations of sporting leagues.
“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,” he said.
“With the timeframes involved we had to make this call (to cancel the homecoming game) 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 said he still held out hope the Warriors might be able to play at home again later in the season.
The New Zealand side has four regular season home games scheduled after June 18 – on July 3, July 29, August 12 and 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.
“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.”