Rugby League: New Zealand Warriors essential to revamped NRL - Ivan Cleary

One of the most respected voices in rugby league has urged NRL officials to properly consider how important the NZ Warriors are to restarting the competition.

Ivan Cleary has in-depth knowledge of the Auckland club, having spent 10 years there as a player and coach.

The current Penrith Panther coach has told Newshub no club or player needs more help in this situation than the men from Mt Smart.

The refreshingly honest Cleary is disappointed in league officials for powering ahead with their restart plans, without fully comprehending what the NRL would look like without the Warriors. 

"The NRL can easily forget about you, that's just how it is," Cleary says. "No matter what [the outcome], the Warriors are going to be up against it." 

Cleary and other NRL coaches have agreed not to start training until the New Zealand club is allowed too.

If the revamped season kicks off as planned in late May, the Warriors will need to self-isolate in Australia for two weeks, before they can hit the paddock. 

The club would need to send players and coaches across the Tasman as soon as possible to allow them to prepare sufficiently, but Cleary says that's just not feasible right now. 

"I was a part of those conversations last week - I 100 percent endorse that [decision]. We need to do the right thing here."

The coaches might be committed to doing their bit for the Warriors, but Cleary's concerned the NRL's not acting with enough urgency.

Officials only met with Warriors management yesterday to discuss the restart, and the potential of accommodation for players and their families.

"That's something I thought should have already been sorted." 

And Cleary stresses just how important the Warriors are to the future of a newlook NRL in 2020.

"They are the catalyst for the comp restarting. Until they come to Australia, we can't really think about it.

"North Queensland and all the Queensland clubs are saying they're not sure if we're going to come down [to New South Wales], but the Warriors have been put out more than anyone in the whole comp."  

The messy, but essential broadcast deal is also proving a massive hurdle.

The NRL must negotiate a deal with both Fox Sports Australia and a free-to-air broadcaster to get the season back rolling. 

Network Nine is apparently unwilling to pay an excessive rights fee for a truncated competition. 

"Apart from border controls, it's probably the biggest domino in the whole thing," says Cleary.

Until those deals are signed, the 2020 season remains a big unknown.