The cost of the Kiwis mid-year Denver test against England is set to climb for the Warriors who may lose their star players for not one, but two NRL matches, due to player welfare concerns.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney has already ruled out picking any players that feature in the controversial June 23 test for the following week's NRL game against Cronulla, but that policy could be extended to prevent them from making the longest away trip in the NRL to play the Cowboys in Townsville on June 15.

The Warriors are already unhappy their marquee players will embark on a 40-hour round trip across three time zones to the United States to play a test match at high altitude and have previously stated they will only release players that are 100 per cent fit.

Warriors CEO Cameron George said the club is now weighing up whether players' long-term health will be better served by skipping the additional 15-hour return flight to North Queensland that would see them return to Auckland a day before the Kiwis fly out.


New Kiwis coach Michael Maguire is expected to announce his initial wider squad for the one-off test in Denver by the end of next week, prior to the Warriors round 14 match against Manly in Christchurch on June 9.

"That's something I'm going to talk to Stephen about this week," George told Radio Sport.

"They've got to be 100 per cent right to be available and there's a question mark about do we even send these players to the Cowboys game.

Kiwis Shaun Johnson is dejected following their loss during the Rugby League World Cup Quarter Final match. Photo / Photosport
Kiwis Shaun Johnson is dejected following their loss during the Rugby League World Cup Quarter Final match. Photo / Photosport

"That's all a by-product of us looking after their wellbeing, in taking into account everything around the player's welfare and travel schedule.

"We'll see who gets selected and then we'll talk to our group and make sure that we put mechanisms in place to ensure their welfare is looked after.

"And it may well be that it's that costly for the club that they miss two games instead of one because of this test match."

That call could see the Warriors without several of their best and highest paid players – including captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, halfback Shaun Johnson, hooker Issac Luke and forwards Tohu Harris, Simon Mannering and Adam Blair - for two games crucial to their finals hopes.

The Warriors have this weekend off with the bye round but it remains unknown which players will be cleared fit to play in Denver by Kearney and Warriors strength and conditioning coach Alex Corvo.

Tuivasa-Sheck limped out of last week's loss to Souths with an ankle injury, Johnson is due back for next week's clash against Manly in Christchurch after missing the last three games with a similar problem, and Luke is carrying a suspect shoulder injury after overcoming a knee problem suffered in the Anzac Day defeat to Melbourne.

"There's different players that have got niggling injuries, they're looking for a bit of a break but they're having a break this weekend so they might come back recharged ready to go," said George.


George said it will be up to the players to decide whether to put club before country and make themselves unavailable for the Denver test.

"That will be up to the individuals. It could well be [the case]. They know that because of the travel we and they have to ensure that they're fit enough to endure that trip to play for the Kiwis and then also come back and play for us, not against the Sharks, but certainly the following week. We've got to get our season on track.

"The bottom line is if they're not fit they won't be going."

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scores a try and celebrates with Simon Mannering. Photo / Photosport
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck scores a try and celebrates with Simon Mannering. Photo / Photosport

George yesterday called for the scheduling of next year's Denver test to be shifted so that it doesn't fall in the middle of the NRL premiership and today wondered why growing the game in the US was taking priority over the New Zealand Rugby League arranging a home test against Tonga.

"It just doesn't make sense that we're going up there and everyone's talking about promoting the international game. Well, I've got a suggestion, how about we promote it in our back yard first?

"We've got the greatest opportunity here between New Zealand and Tonga. We talk about State of Origin, a test match between New Zealand and Tonga would blow out Origin.

"Let's exploit that opportunity and first and foremost let's not worry about the States, let's worry about getting our backyard right."

George was unsure he would need to try and convince newly appointed New Zealand Rugby League CEO and former head of SAANZAR, Greg Peters, of the value in arranging a regular fixture with Tonga, saying it would be obvious to anyone who knew anything about rugby league.

"I'd be surprised if he wasn't thinking that already. I would have thought anyone at that level would have that in their head."

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