Rugby league: Warriors dispute NRL’s ‘back to normal’ claim

The NRL boss may believe the competition is set for a return to “normal” next year.

But the Warriors – whose new coach Nathan Brown is still in isolation – will beg to disagree.

“We’re going back to a normal season,” Peter V’landys told Sydney radio host Andrew Voss this week.

But Warriors chief executive Cameron George said the quarantine requirement for people entering New Zealand meant that as it stands, the 2021 season was shaping up as anything but normal for his club.

“From our perspective what’s normal in the eyes of the Australian based clubs isn’t necessarily normal for the New Zealand Warriors because of the international restrictions,” George told NZME.

“Unless we’re based here travelling freely as we’ve previously done before Covid hitting it won’t be normal for our club. Unless the borders are open we’ll obviously have to play in Australia.

“I share their optimism and hope and pray for our fans and for everyone in New Zealand that the borders are open and we are back to normal.”

Australian Brown has three days left isolating in Auckland. The Warriors squad is split into camps based in Auckland and Australia, with pre-season training commencing on Monday.

The Warriors saved the 2020 NRL season by agreeing to spend most of it based in Australia, initially in Tamworth and then Gosford.

The Warriors have yet to find out what the 2021 pre-season match schedule will be. They will return to Tamworth for their build up, but are unsure where they will be based for the competition.

George said: “We can fly out of Auckland today into Australia without restriction so families are permitted which is huge, huge benefit to playing group, but we can’t come back without quarantine.

“Families will be joining us (next season) – players and staff will be very happy with that.”

V’landys praised the NRL players for their 2020 sacrifices, and said “next season’s bubble won’t be as strict if it is to exist (at all).”

But he didn’t appear to factor in the Warriors’ unique situation.

“We’re going to go back to normal next season,” said V’landys, the ARL Commission chairman.

“We’ve experienced Covid, we know how to handle Covid, and I don’t think the protocols will be as strict.

“There’s now a possibility of a vaccine, and that changes the whole thing completely.”

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