They’re being dubbed the New Zealand “Nomads,” and with good reason.
The New Zealand Warriors of the National Rugby League arrived at a small regional airport in New South Wales state on Sunday after being given permission to enter Australia despite a general ban on incoming travelers due to the coronavirus pandemic.
During a 14-day isolation period during which they’ll be able to train at Tamworth in the northwestern part of the state, they’ll likely move down to the Central Coast north of Sydney and play most of their matches in that area once the planned resumption of the season on May 28.
They’ll be without their families, for now, and will likely not be able to return to New Zealand until the NRL season ends. That’s nearly six months from now, in October.
Warriors chief executive Cameron George hopes families can follow in coming months, if current restrictions are relaxed. He said an in-house “well-being” officer will remain with the team during the season, while the club will ensure their families have support back in New Zealand.
The club also has the option to apply for a replacement if any player needs to return home prematurely.
“The squad we’re taking across is the intended squad that we play with for the duration of the season,” George told Australian Associated Press. “But if things change for personal reasons for individuals, on a case-by-case basis we can make application to the NRL, particularly on compassionate grounds.”
Two NRL rounds were played before the season was suspended on March 23 due to the pandemic. Australian media reported Saturday that the NRL plans a 20-round season in a revised schedule with the grand final championship to be played on Oct. 25.
The match venues have not been determined, although they are all expected to be played in New South Wales.
On Friday, the Queensland government said borders would be open for the state’s three NRL teams to play in New South Wales. Currently there are restrictions on travel between the two states.
It means North Queensland, Brisbane and the Gold Coast will not need to enter isolation camps in Sydney and can remain at home with their families before the season resumes.
Australian states have been easing restriction due to the pandemic, with the national COVID-19 death toll a relatively low 95 midway through Sunday and with new cases declining.