After two NRL seasons away from home, the Warriors have had their hearts broken yet again as the escalating COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney has robbed them of a long-awaited homecoming game.
- The Warriors relocated from New Zealand to NSW to allow the NRL season to resume early in the coronavirus pandemic
- They have not played at their home ground since August 30, 2019
- The Warriors are one of 12 teams relocating into Queensland hubs
The New Zealand side had to relocate to Tamworth to allow the NRL season to resume in round three last May and have played 17 rounds of 2021 based in New South Wales.
The light at the end of the tunnel was the announcement that the last game of the season would be played back at their Auckland home ground.
But it has been confirmed that the round 22 clash with the Bulldogs, which was almost sold out, will not be played at Mt Smart Stadium, with the new location not yet confirmed.
“We were all desperately looking forward to coming home for the game but the fact is we’re in the middle of a new crisis which leaves us with no other decision but to call the game off,” Warriors chief executive Cameron George said.
“We appreciate the support the NRL gave us trying to make this game possible but we’re committed to doing all we can to protect the competition and our players.”
The Warriors have not played a game at Mt Smart since August 30, 2019, and it now appears they will not play there again until the start of the 2022 season at the earliest.
The Sydney outbreak has also forced State of Origin III to be relocated twice — first from Sydney to Newcastle, then from Newcastle to the Gold Coast — and pushed the Warriors, Raiders and all 10 teams from NSW to move to Queensland hubs in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast.
The relocation was announced during the Warriors’ clash with Cronulla on Sunday, with New Zealand star Shaun Johnson, who is joining the Warriors next year, suggesting the season should be relocated across the Tasman.
The NRL opted to take the season north of the Tweed, for what ARLC chairman Peter V’landys described as “an unknown period”.
“It could be four weeks, it could be the rest of the season,” V’landys told Fox Sports.
That could mean the grand final would be played somewhere other than Sydney for the first time, aside from the 1997 Super League decider, which was played in Brisbane.
“There’d be plenty of states that would want the NRL grand final and would be bidding substantial money for it,” V’landys said.
“And that will offset any costs that we have in having this bubble.”