The Warriors have shelved plans to return home in June – and could be based across the Tasman for the remainder of the 2021 NRL season.
The Herald understands the club is working through the final details of plans to extend their stay in Australia, for at least two months beyond the current deadline.
They are still hopeful of one or two games at Mt Smart before the end of the season, but they would be 'fly-in, fly-out' matches, with both teams on New Zealand soil for only a few days.
The Warriors, who face Parramatta on Sunday in Brisbane as part of the NRL's Magic Round, had earlier planned to vacate their Central Coast base after the round 15 match against Newcastle on June 19.
Players and staff would fly home in the days following the match, then start the process of re-establishing, or in some cases beginning, their lives in New Zealand.
The round 16 clash with the Dragons on July 2 was previously earmarked as the first Mt Smart match.
That idea is now firmly off the table.
There has been a series of meetings between players, coaches, staff and senior management over the past two weeks to discuss and communicate the latest strategy.
While there had been some hope of a June return when the transtasman bubble was announced on 19 April, that has been steadily extinguished.
The random Covid-19 outbreaks in four Australian states since then have been an illustration of the ongoing uncertainty, and the hazards that would be involved in decamping from their Terrigal base.
It's a risk that the club is not prepared to take, given the drastic ramifications of being stuck on either side of the Tasman following a sudden border closure.
As a group, it's believed the players are in favour of the decision to stay on.
As much as there is a desire to be back in New Zealand, reunited with extended family and friends and playing at their home base, they are aware of the stability provided by remaining in Australia, for on and off field reasons.
While the current situation is far from ideal, it has helped that partners and children are settled in Australia, while the accommodation and training arrangements are superior to last season.
The idea of being separated again from immediate families – if something went wrong after a relocation – is difficult to contemplate for the playing group.
Coach Nathan Brown has also been heavily involved in the process, and is unlikely to want to risk uprooting the team, especially while they remain strong contenders for the top eight, given the fine margins in high performance sport.
It's likely the NRL would also prefer the Warriors to stay, given the risk-reward equation.
The Warriors haven't completely given up on relocating before the end of the season, but the chances are getting smaller with every passing week, given the lead times involved with the NRL, broadcasters, stadiums, their accommodation, players, staff and their families.
There is still hope of one or two homecoming games in Auckland. They would be treated as away matches, but give the chance for local fans to see the team, corporates to get some mileage from a game day experience and the club to generate some much needed gate revenue.
Given the time frames, games in August are most likely. The clash with the Sharks on August 7 could draw a massive crowd, given the presence of former favourite Shaun Johnson, who hasn't faced the Warriors at Mt Smart since he left the club after the 2018 season.
The other scheduled 'home' games that month are against the Bulldogs (August 15) and Raiders (August 27).
The last time the Warriors were sighted at Mt Smart was August 30 2019, hosting the Rabbitohs.
They opened the 2020 season away at Newcastle, then were stuck across the Tasman after New Zealand's border suddenly closed, which meant their scheduled round two home game against the Raiders was moved to Australia.
They have been based across the Tasman ever since, forced to give up all 12 home matches last season and are set to forfeit at least 10 in 2021.
Even though the NRL has provided generous financial assistance, the situation has cost the club millions in lost revenue.