NZ Warriors will remain based in Australia for the 2021 NRL season, chief executive Cameron George has confirmed.
The Kiwi side had hoped to return to New Zealand to finish their season playing in front of home fans.
But George says the reality of COVID-19 and its impact on trans-Tasman travel means the Warriors will continue to be based in Australia for the rest of 2021.
"We saw a pause in the bubble just two weeks ago after a case in Sydney and that really served as another reminder of how unstable things are," he says.
"While we've wanted to come home, our priority has been to ensure we have stability for our players and families, while also doing what's best for the competition.
"We've been in constant discussions with the NRL, keeping abreast of developments and we've mutually agreed it's in our best interests to remain in Australia."
But while the Warriors won't be based in New Zealand until 2022 at the earliest, George hopes that the Kiwi side will play home matches in front of Kiwi supporters before season's end.
"We will continue to explore options to play in front of our fans at home, if international border volatility settles later in the season," he adds.
Earlier this week, club captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck hinted at the Warriors' decision to remain in Australia.
"We made a smart decision that we think it's probably best to stay on here and finish it off," says Tuivasa-Sheck.
"You've got to consider the families and boys having to find homes when they get back. To find rent, pay for bond, have to get leases - that's all the little things we had to think about.
"We've put all of that into consideration, and it doesn't seem that easy just to pack up and go home, because, unfortunately, some of the boys don't have homes. They don't have cars there, they don't know how to get around.
"There's a good set-up here, a good system, so we might as well just finish the year off here and get a life back in New Zealand in the new year."
While the Warriors are clearly keen to get back on home soil and treat their faithful fanbase to a long-awaited game in the flesh, the recently announced All Blacks test against Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium on July 3 may make the targeted Round 16 clash with St George Dragons unfeasible.
Their next scheduled home fixture is against Penrith Panthers on July 18.
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