NRL Rd 25 - Warriors v Raiders
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 31: The Warriors gather around for a huddle during the round 25 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Canberra Raiders at Mt Smart Stadium on August 31, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

After spending the 2020 NRL season in Australia as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw New Zealand’s borders shut after their round one clash, the New Zealand Warriors have confirmed they will spend the first four rounds of the 2021 season in Australia, with Warriors CEO Cameron George confirming the news via a club statement.

The Warriors will play their first two home games against Gold Coast and Newcastle at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, and will also stay in Australia for their round three and four away games against Canberra and the Roosters.

George said the situation for the first four rounds isn’t what they wanted, but the Warriors would do what they had to.

“It’s not what we want to do but it’s what we have to do. Our priority is to ensure we do all we can to enable our team to be as well prepared as it can be for 2021,” George said.

“It’s a football decision that needs to be made now. We can’t afford to speculate about what might or might not happen any longer. We need clarity for our players, staff and families.

“We tried to arrange a quarantine facility like other sporting bodies have done to bring our players from Australia to train here as a squad but our request was declined so we’ve had to adapt.

“We’ll keep abreast of the border situation and in early March will decide with the NRL what the best course of action is after the first four rounds, hopefully returning to New Zealand to play at Mount Smart for the first time since 2019 in round five.”

At the present time, the Warriors squad have been split up, with 14 of the NRL squad training in Kiama in New South Wales, while the remaining group has begun their pre-season in Auckland.

Head coach Nathan Brown said the current training situation isn’t ideal, but something they’ve had to work around.

“It’s not ideal having the squad split with one group in Auckland and another in Kiama but it has been the only option open to us,” said Brown.

“At the same time the focus pre-Christmas is always on physical conditioning and some skill work. It’s not until the New Year that we really concentrate on structure, game style and our combinations leading into the trials.

“It’s critical getting together as a group which the camp in Tamworth is all about.”