NRL 2021: NZ Warriors players withdraw MIQ requests to help staff members get home

NZ Warriors players have withdrawn their requests for spots in COVID-19 managed isolation, in a bid to see their support staff return to New Zealand.

For the past two NRL seasons, the Warriors have been based in Australia, with trans-Tasman travel unable to be guaranteed, due to border restrictions. 

As a result, most of the players and support staff have lived out of a suitcase, many away from family members, to ensure that the NRL competition can be played in its entirety.

But with the Warriors season now over, the team and staff are stuck in Australia, unable to return home, due to a lack of space in MIQ.

The club has confirmed the team will be based in Australia for a third season next year and will operate out of Redcliffe, but hoping to play six games at their Mt Smart Stadium home ground.

But with the 2022 pre-season due to begin in November, the Warriors players have withdrawn their bids for MIQ spaces, so nine of their support staff have a better chance of returning to New Zealand to be with their families.

"Our staff have been checking every single day for any MIQ spots that open up," forward Tohu Harris tells RNZ.

"That's a daily thing, three or four times per day they're checking that. There's been nothing, it's been a struggle.

"[It's] a bit of a sticky situation. The players wanted to do our part to get their story out there.

"They've been working so hard for us, every single day for the past two seasons now. They've been doing it without their support systems.

"We're lucky as players. I'll train, come home and my wife and son are here - I've got my support system here.

"Our staff have been doing it day after day without theirs. The players really wanted to show the appreciation for our staff by sharing their story and getting them out there."

Harris also says that the Warriors have personally written to Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, hoping to alert officials to the plight of the Warriors staff stuck in limbo.

"We haven't heard anything back at the moment at this current point in time," he adds. 

"I know that they're very busy and they've got a lot that they need to manage with protecting New Zealanders, managing all the different sports teams, and people coming in and out.

"We want to make it clear that we're not looking for special treatment. There's obviously a process to this, but as players, we wanted to push this message out, so that our staff 1) feel appreciated by us, and 2) they're not forgotten amongst the mayhem of COVID."

The MIQ plight isn't unique to the Warriors, with NZ Kiwi Ferns internationals also stuck in Australia, after the cancellation of the NRLW.

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