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Covid-19 NZ: End of MIQ provides certainty for Warriors to get home, wait to play there set to continue

New Zealand’s five-step border reopening has provided the Warriors with a big hit of peace of mind but fans will likely need to be patient for their homecoming at Mt Smart Stadium.

Warriors chief executive Cameron George has confirmed to Stuff the Government’s plan to phase out managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ), unveiled on Thursday, was likely to put an end to the Warriors’ much-anticipated homecoming, against NRL premiers the Penrith Panthers, on June 18.

It would have been the club’s first match at Mt Smart in 1023 days, since the loss to the Rabbitohs on August 30, 2019.

Warriors teenage superstar Reece Walsh should play in New Zealand for the first time but it's unlikely to be in June.

David Neilson/Photosport

Warriors teenage superstar Reece Walsh should play in New Zealand for the first time but it’s unlikely to be in June.

In light of Thursday’s announcement, George said it was unlikely the club and a rival team would be able to travel to Auckland until step four of the border reopening plan in July.

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The entire situation could be described as fluid, given Thursday’s border changes were delayed from mid-January, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said there was a high likelihood step four could happen earlier than July.

It’s unknown if that will be enough to save the Panthers game but could give hope for a home game, on July 3, against the West Tigers at Mt Smart Stadium.

The Warriors squad can now head home at the end of the season without a stint in MIQ.

Photosport

The Warriors squad can now head home at the end of the season without a stint in MIQ.

At the heart of everything will be whether or not the self-isolation period of seven days still stands come July because even if teams could train during it, it would not work, George said.

Ardern said the Government will “constantly review” self-isolation requirements.

George said speculating was not something worth expending needless energy on, at this stage, and the club would continue to monitor the situation and adapt to decisions out of the club’s control.

George conceded all home games are up in the air to an extent, due to the impending Covid-19 Omicron outbreak on this side of the Tasman but Thursday’s announcement did point to some semblance of certainty for games to be played at Mt Smart Stadium in 2022.

The club still hopes the Warriors will play at least four home games in Auckland in 2022.

Russell Freeman/Photosport

The club still hopes the Warriors will play at least four home games in Auckland in 2022.

“With all things being equal it appears we can play games at home so we’ve just got to wait and see,” George said.

Following the Tigers game, the next match scheduled for Mt Smart is against the Melbourne Storm on July 29.

The positive news out of the border changes for the club is they bring complete clarity to players and staff being able to return to New Zealand at the immediate completion of the NRL season.

Players and staff were stranded in Australia at the end of the 2021 season and most have not got back to New Zealand since.

“At least we now know we can get home which is a fantastic result,” George told Stuff.

“It also means the guys’ families and extended families can come and visit in Brisbane because they know they can then get home.”

As for other New Zealand-based teams currently across the Tasman, the Breakers and Phoenix are committed to completing their seasons in Australia, while rugby bosses are still deciding what the border decisions will mean for Super Rugby Trans Tasman.

Phoenix women’s head coach Gemma Lewis said that while her team is almost certain to finish their competition while still based in Australia, the players had had a lift from the border announcements knowing that they would be able to return home without having to do MIQ.

“It’s a massive lift of stress off people’s shoulders,” Lewis told Stuff.

“We know we are going to be safe and be able to get back home.”

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