NRL 2020: Relieved Warriors determined to do NZ proud

A group of 50 Warriors players and support staff are feverishly packing their bags, with the club finally cleared to travel across the Tasman to begin preparing for the resumption of the NRL season on Sunday.

Newshub was with club CEO Cameron George just moments after he received formal approval from Australian border officials, a phone call that brought a mixture of excitement and relief after weeks of uncertainty.

"To now have that approval finally sent to us this morning is a real relief," George told Newshub.

The Warriors were prepared for the worse, realising a pandemic is bigger than rugby league.

"We were always going to respect and understand the decision, so whilst we're excited, we are very grateful that the Australian Government has permitted us access into the country."

But while George will remain at home, the players will leave without their families, who will stay in New Zealand until further travel exemptions are granted.

The Warriors' sacrifice was acknowledged by ARL commission chairman Peter V'landys.

"Right from the start of this pandemic, the club and its players have put the competition first and for that we will be forever thankful," said V'landys.

While captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is looking forward to being reunited with his teammates, he's under no illusions as to the challenge that awaits them across the ditch, both on and off the field.

"We're excited knowing we have the all clear to fly tomorrow and looking forward to getting back together as a group for the first time in six weeks," Tuivasa-Sheck said.

"It's going to be a real challenge for us all being away from our families, but we’re committed to getting back on the field to represent our club and our fans as well as everyone who loves sport.

"We’re thankful for all the work Cameron and the NRL have done to make it possible for us to get on with starting the season again."

The Warriors had vowed not to travel unless all their demands were satisfied, but their concerns around remuneration, competition length, family support and biosecurity have now all been dealt with.

"It wasn't about being disrespectful or arrogant, it was ensuring the risk v reward was appropriate for our players to take," George added. 

"It was also ensuring that we weren't taking a leap of faith during a global pandemic."

On Sunday, 31 players and 19 support staff will travel on a charter flight to Tamworth - a small town in northern New South Wales about five hours drive from Sydney.

They'll train there in isolation for 14 days before relocating - at this stage, to the Central Coast.

Players and club officials will have no excuse for flouting the NRL's strict COVID-19 protocols, with Monday's return-to-training date transformed into an "education day".

"Any breaches that take place from now on will be dealt with in the harshest possible way, and rightly so."

But George hopes he won't have to deal with any of that, and he has a message for the Warriors faithful.

"We're going to Australia to carry the flag for our country and make us all proud at a time that's been extremely challenging," George said.

"Who knows, it could be the greatest story in rugby league."

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