Around 6am on Thursday 12th March, the Warriors players said goodbye to their families and headed to Auckland airport.

Their flight had been rescheduled — to 9am, back from 1pm — but the squad knew they would be back home with their wives, partners and children by Sunday afternoon.

Fast forward ten days, and the team is still in Australia, and could be for quite some time, as they face the Canberra Raiders tomorrow afternoon (5pm NZT) at Cbus Super Stadium.

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Friday's confirmation that the playing group had committed to being based across the Tasman for the foreseeable future was a definitive step, after an week defined by uncertainty and not inconsiderable angst.

Warriors CEO Cameron George. Photo / Photosport
Warriors CEO Cameron George. Photo / Photosport

"We're in, we're committed, it's game on for us now," said CEO Cameron George. "We've had the decision made as a collective to do it for our sponsors and our fans. We're locked in.

"The [players'] families are supporting that and [for] however long the comp stays around for, who knows? It could be six months, it could be one week."

It's a move that has been applauded across the NRL, but the process of getting there was far from straightforward.

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It began soon after the Warriors walked off the field last Saturday, after their 20-0 defeat to the Knights.

As they sat in the small visitors dressing room, George outlined the massive news filtering through from New Zealand, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had announced the 14-day self-isolation period for all new arrivals, which effectively made it impossible for the Warriors to stage games at Mt Smart.

The players digested that development then made calls to worried wives and partners back home.

At that stage, there was still a possibility that players could fly home for a few days, before returning to Australia ahead of a relocated round two match, but that potential plan was dashed by the following morning when the Australian government confirmed the same self-isolation policy for travellers.

The players then convened their own meeting, chaired by Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Adam Blair, Blake Green and Tohu Harris (four of the five-strong leadership group).


At that meeting there wasn't universal agreement on the way forward, with so many questions still to be answered.

Behind the scenes, football operations manager Dan Floyd was working on logistics, from the basics of sourcing some extra clothes and training kit to finding a base for the following week.

After extended discussions with the club's management, the players agreed to stay in Australia for the week, but wanted more details on what a longer period would look like and how they could see their families.

The team then relocated to Kingscliff on the Gold Coast and focused on preparations.

They borrowed training jerseys from local clubs, the Titans loaned them a drone and some other equipment and sponsors Canterbury sent over boxes of apparel.

Back in Auckland George and club chairman Rob Croot weighed up all the short term needs, while also working with three scenarios for the season, from it carrying on as normal, to it being put on hold and the team returning, to the competition being cancelled, while owner Mark Robinson spent time with players and staff in camp.

Warriors training session in New South Wales. Photo / Photosport
Warriors training session in New South Wales. Photo / Photosport

Across the week the players began to settle into a routine at their base, and also realised the financial and competitive implications of coming home en masse, if the competition was still going.

On Thursday afternoon the Warriors' hierarchy resolved what had been the most vexing issue, as the NRL agreed to cover the costs of wives and partners visiting the players.

But that breakthrough was quickly followed by the border closure on both sides of the Tasman, which threw another spanner in the works.

Despite that, the players agreed to remain, after more discussions on Thursday night (NZT).

The Herald understands two or three partners were planning to make the trip on Friday, but most will now stay.

Winger Patrick Herbert also flew back to Australia on Friday, with his wife and newborn son, though Herbert will join Agnatius Paasi, Gerard Beale, Josh Curran and Jazz Tevaga in an isolated group away from the team's Kingscliff base.


As he reflected on Friday morning, George didn't downplay the significance of the team's decision.

"I feel like our guys thought if they walked away it might have started to crack the game," said George. "It might have started to break down the competition and cause some dramas."

He also paid tribute to the football unit, from the coaching and high-performance staff to the players.

"I can't emphasise enough the resilience this group is showing," George said.

"Anyone of us sitting here now, if we were told to go and live in another country away from your family, unplanned for an indefinite period, I'm not sure how many people would stand up to that challenge."

"[But] the entire squad is locked in, ready to go. Not one of them are wavering from this commitment to the NRL and to keep this competition alive, in challenging times."


With all the machinations it's easy to overlook the magnitude of the task on Saturday, against the 2019 grand finalists.

It will be bizarre, as a match that could have been in front of 30,000 fans as part of an Eden park doubleheader, will be played in an empty ground on the Gold Coast.

The Warriors may have some extra resolve from the dramas of the past week, but will still be significant underdogs.