NRL 2021: NZ Warriors players depart for Australia to prepare for 2021 season

"We're focussed and we're ready."

That's the message from the NZ Warriors camp, as they begin their quest for 2021 NRL glory. 

The squad, families and staff have departed for Tamworth, Australia, their first stop before basing themselves on the Central Coast for at least the opening four rounds of the competition.

But unlike last season, there's more certainty and an air of excitement about the journey ahead.

Plenty of hugs and even a few tears, but there were definitely more smiles from the Warriors, as they began a new campaign

"It's definitely lot a lot easier this time around, because it's planned," Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck says.

"The club is well prepared for it and we understand what challenges there are, and we understand the job at task, so we're very excited," Warriors chief executive Cameron George says. 

This is a far cry from last season's anxious and emotional farewell.

"Last year, we were caught on the hop," George says. "The whole world was and we were in Australia with an overnight bag basically."

The sacrifice made earned the Warriors respect and sympathy from across the Tasman, a tag their skipper no longer wants.

"We're not going over there to make up numbers or for anyone to feel sorry for us," Tuivasa-Sheck says. 

George says: "I want us to know we're going there to win this competition." 

And that starts with a month-long training camp in Tamworth, a town that adopted the Warriors as their own, before a shift for the opening four rounds.

But with fresh virus outbreaks and doubts over a trans-Tasman bubble, their hopes of a return to Mt Smart on April 9 looks unlikely.  

"I suspect it will be, but fingers crossed it changes, and our Prime Minister looks after us and gets us home," George says. 

At least this time they can have their families there. 

Last season, wings Ken Maumalo and David Fusitua left to return to New Zealand after eight weeks, which had a profound impact, while Tuivasa-Sheck struggled without his family for five months. This time, they'll arrive in February.

"I just keep telling them, take it as an adventure and let's all enjoy this," Tuivasa-Sheck says. 

But like any good partner, Ashley Walker made sure he didn't leave without mowing the lawns.

"I did actually, I had to get them done," Tuivasa-Sheck says.

Watch the full story above.