Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is prepared to play the rest of the NRL season — assuming it restarts at some stage — exclusively in Australia, if that's what it takes to keep the competition alive.

The Warriors returned home on Tuesday night, after the NRL season was suspended late on Monday evening, due to the ongoing escalation of the Covid-19 virus outbreak in Australia.

The Australian Rugby League Commission is hopeful of re-starting the competition, in some form, from June, July, August or September.

However, even if the virus spread is under control in Australia and New Zealand, travel restrictions are likely to remain in place for a prolonged period after that, which could make it impossible to play at Mt Smart at all this season.


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That would be a heavy burden, but one Kearney would be willing to take on.

"If that's what has to happen, that's what has to happen," Kearney told the Herald. "To be honest, if it means keeping the competition alive, and our footy club receiving funding, then we have got to do what we have to do."

The Warriors were marooned in Australia after their round one match against the Knights, after border restrictions were imposed by both trans-Tasman governments.

The players took the difficult decision to stay on, away from wives, partners and families, but a future commitment could be a matter of months, not weeks.

The competition became one of the last professional contact sports to shut down in response to the outbreak, suspending its 16-team competition last night.

"I think the boys have had a bit of a taste of it and we would try to make the process as easy as possible," said Kearney. "We were prepared to do that (stay) a week ago. We would probably be better prepared if it is in three months, to be able to deal with that sort of situation, if that's what we had to do."

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney. Photo / Photosport
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney. Photo / Photosport

As the multi-faceted impact of the virus outbreak grows, Kearney also expected his players would be pragmatic about the impending possibility of pay cuts, with all clubs expected to be under massive financial pressure for the rest of 2020 and beyond.

"You would have to ask them," said Kearney of the prospect of salary reductions. "[But] once the reality of the situation is put to them, about the severity, well what can you do?


"People are losing jobs, losing businesses. It's not a football thing, it's a worldwide thing."

The team arrived home on a chartered flight from the Gold Coast on Tuesday, after an experience in Australia that Kearney admitted was highly unusual, but overall "great for the footy club", saying he was immensely proud of the resilience of the players, and the response of support staff back in Auckland.

Kearney said he would convene with coaches and head trainer Craig Twentyman to formulate a plan to keep the squad in shape over the next few months.

"We will try to keep them active, although obviously you can't do a lot over the next four weeks," said Kearney. "There are apps to use with body weight, though obviously it's not the same. But it doesn't stop you from going down to the park, running around the field. It will take some commitment and discipline from individuals."

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Kearney said most players had taken some weights equipment and exercise bikes from the club to use at home.

"When we got back to the gym on Tuesday night there was a lot of stuff already gone," said Kearney. "I brought home some stuff myself."

But like most people in sport, Kearney's profession will take a back seat over the next few weeks, given the severity of the situation across the world.

"It's challenging times, in NZ, in Australia, around the world, with everything that's happening," said Kearney. "I've got friends, everyone has, that are losing jobs or businesses."