WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Hopes that New Zealand Warriors might be able to play proper home matches for the entirety of next year's National Rugby League (NRL) season have been dashed and the club will again be based in Australia for at least the first four matches.
The Warriors, the only non-Australian club in the NRL, spent five months of this year in a biosecure bubble in Australia to enable the season to be resumed and completed after the borders of both countries were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A trans-Tasman Sea "bubble" that would allow New Zealanders and Australians to travel between the two countries without having to go into quarantine has still not been put in place and the club had no choice but to pack their bags again.
"It's not what we want to do but it's what we have to do. Our priority is to ensure we do all we can to enable our team to be as well prepared as it can be for 2021," club chief executive Cameron George said.
"It's a football decision that needs to be made now. We can't afford to speculate about what might or might not happen any longer. We need clarity for our players, staff and families.
"We'll keep abreast of the border situation and in early March will decide with the NRL what the best course of action is after the first four rounds."
Half the squad are already in Australia and the remaining players will join them in the first week of January before the season kicks off in March.
"We tried to arrange a quarantine facility like other sporting bodies have done to bring our players from Australia to train here as a squad but our request was declined so we’ve had to adapt," George added.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)