NZ Warriors chief executive Cameron George has confirmed the team have extended their stay in Australia until at least June 21.
As first reported by Newshub on Wednesday, with so much uncertainty about when a two-way trans-Tasman travel-bubble will occur, the club has been forced to extend its stay in Australia.
"It was our hope, initially, that we would be able to return home for our April 9 match against Manly, but the resurgence in COVID-19 in New Zealand leaves us with no option but to extend our stay," George says.
"Indications are the introduction of any trans-Tasman bubble will happen later than originally hoped, so on that basis, we’ve had discussions with the NRL, and our players and staff about delaying our return to ensure we have some continuity for the first 15 rounds of the competition.
The club is now aiming for their first home game at Mt Smart Stadium against St George Illawarra Dragons in Round 16.
The Warriors last played in front of their faithful against South Sydney Rabbitohs on August 30, 2019.
The latest news is devastating for the team, after they were forced to spend the entire 2020 season in Australia.
With the New Zealand border still shut due to COVID-19, any arrivals into the country must spend 14 days in managed isolation. That's unlikely to change anytime soon, so the Warriors are likely to spend the entire 2021 season in Australia.
George makes it very clear that the team is desperate to return home and when it's safe to do so, they'll be on the first flight back.
"Clearly, this hasn’t been the outcome we wanted, particularly after being away from home for the entire 2020 season," he says.
"I hope our determination to front up for our fans, our partners, and our country gives everyone cause to be proud of the club, and excited to be part of another premiership challenge.
"We can't wait to be home with everyone and to have a hell of a party at Mt Smart.
"So we are going to lock in here for the next three months - head down, arse up - and do the best we can, and if the borders are open, we're going.
"When it’s safe to do so, we look forward to sharing the biggest homecoming party with everyone at Mt Smart Stadium, but for now, the players and staff are focused on the opening round of the season against Gold Coast on Saturday week."
The Warriors will now play a minimum of seven of their 12 home games in Australia, starting with the Titans.
The club is currently based in Gosford, New South Wales, and will call that home, until they can return home or until the end of season.
Join us next Saturday for live updates of the Warriors v Gold Coast Titans NRL clash