NRL 2020: NZ Warriors coach Todd Payten admits homesick players are close to quitting

Interim NZ Warriors coach Todd Payten concedes some players could return home because they miss their families, but he isn't using that as an excuse for his side's 50-6 thrashing against the Melbourne Storm. 

Ken Maumalo, Agnatius Paasi, David Fusitu'a and Leivaha Pulu are reportedly considering throwing in the towel and returning to New Zealand. 

Warriors players with Australian partners have been able to see their families since restrictions were eased earlier this week, but squad members with Kiwi relatives have not been able to reunite.

Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V'landys is pressuring the federal government to allow their families into Australia, and Payten confirmed there will be more meetings over the weekend.

All this comes less than a week after former coach Stephen Kearney was sacked, which sent shockwaves around the rugby league community. 

Payten believes the uncertainty is having a negative impact on his team, but he feels they should be using it as motivation.

"Everyone misses their families," he says. "That's still not a good enough reason to perform like we did. That should be the reason why we pull our finger out and work our butt off to do our families justice.

"The thing that is getting them at the moment is the uncertainty around their families and whether they are coming over. Another hard thing is that Australian families are already here. They can see that around them.

"It's a possibility that may happen [players leaving]. I'm not going to stand in their way, I don't think any of us would stand in their way but we'll cross that when it happens."

Interim NZ Warriors coach Todd Payten.
Interim NZ Warriors coach Todd Payten. Photo credit: Photosport

Due to their massive injury toll, the Warriors realistically can't afford to lose any more players as they headed into Friday's match with just 19 players to choose from after Fusitu'a and Lachlan Burr were ruled out after failing their concussion tests. 

The duo, along with Wayde Egan, should be available for selection next week, but they need more than three returning players to solve their on-field issues. 

"I question our commitment off the ball," Payten added. "Tonight's performance was an indication of exactly where we're at.

"We are a team that needs to have a sniff to kick on with it. When things go against, we aren't tough enough to dig ourselves out of it. 

"I question whether - across the park - we had players that were willing to put their bodies on the line.

"I told the lads downstairs the team is going to be picked on effort and defensive capabilities moving forward. If they want to put themselves in the picture on effort and wanting to scrap, then I don't care what they offer us from an attack point of view. That's my mindset and that's our mindset moving forward."

The Storm had to overcome their own challenges heading into the game, which was played in Sydney after the NRL told the team to relocate due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria. 

After the game, Storm coach Craig Bellamy, captain Cameron Smith and assistant Ryan Hoffman went and spoke to the Warriors after the game to say thanks for their sacrifices. 

"It's been a topsy-turvy week for the group, but when you consider what the Warriors have been through and are still going through, we've got it pretty easy to be quite honest," says Bellamy. 

"I admire what the Warriors are doing to be away from their families and have to back up week after week and to lose Steve who was their flagship, that's been a really tough thing for the players and staff there.

"While I'm really happy with the win, I feel for the Warriors at the moment."

The loss leaves the Warriors languishing near the foot of the standings in 14th. The Warriors will be hoping to bounce back when they face the Brisbane Broncos in their next match. 

Join us at 7:30pm next Saturday for live updates of the Warriors v Broncos NRL clash