The New Zealand Warriors have been dealt a harsh blow in the lead up to their first home game in nearly three years, losing star fullback Reece Walsh to COVID for the week.

Forced to play away from home for over 1,000 days, the emotional homecoming has soured with the exclusion of Walsh, who had never been to New Zealand prior to this trip. The fullback has missed just one match this year.

Walsh has now gone into a week's isolation following the NRL's Apollo protocols, and with the Warriors enjoying the bye next round, it means the Broncos junior will have ample time to prepare for the club's next game, a Round 18 clash against Parramatta at CommBank Stadium.

Losing the 19-year old is a blow for the side not just on the field as rumours swirl that Walsh might not make the move across the ditch at seasons end, with his partner and young child based in Queensland. A sold-out Mt Smart Stadium would have been the perfect advertisement for the teenager to commit to the Warriors and the lifestyle in New Zealand.

While the club won't confirm the official changes until early tomorrow afternoon, it's widely tipped that Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will shift from the wing into the fullback role, allowing 18th man Adam Pompey to start the game on the wing.

The positive test could also prove a blow to the Queensland Maroons, with many pencilling in Walsh for an Origin debut if Kalyn Ponga failed to be fit for the Suncorp decider in 12 days time. Losing both would be catastrophic, and most likely push Cameron Munster to fullback in the scenario.

Despite losing Walsh, the fans will still fill Mt Smart to the brim as they watch their side runout for the first time since August, 2019.