NRL: New Zealand's blocked warriors are a test for the 'trans-Tasman' bubble
MELBOURNE: Separated from their families and locked in a hotel in the rural east Australia , the New Zealand warriors team will face a tough test of character in the coming weeks as the National Rugby Liga seeks to restart its season during the coronavirus .
The Warriors boarded a charter plane in Auckland on Sunday and landed in Tamworth, a city of 43,000 people in the state of New South Wales, where they will spend two weeks in quarantine before NRL The resumption scheduled for May 28.
Strict travel curbs remain in both Australia and New Zealand, as the countries edge closer to stamping out COVID-19.
But the Warriors , the only non- Australia n team in the NRL , were granted special dispensation to travel to NSW, where authorities are keen for sport to resume and ease frustrations after more than a month of self-isolation.
The Warriors are seen as trailblazers for an eventual trans-Tasman link-up in which Australia and New Zealand might resume travel between each other, providing a boost to their economies.
Congratulations to the NRL and the Warriors for being the first to participate in what we hope will become, further down the track, a COVID-19 trans-Tasman bubble, New Zealand foreign affairs minister Winston Peters said on Monday.
Like sports across the globe , the NRL was halted in March as governments scrambled to tighten borders as the COVD-19 pandemic took hold.
The competition's governing body has warned of catastrophic consequences if it cannot generate income by playing games.
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney said his team was grateful for the opportunity to return to play while keeping an eye on the big picture as a safe resumption of the sport is put under the microscope.
We feel that with that, certainly comes a great responsibility on our part as well, he told reporters in a video call on Monday. The boys made that responsibility clear earlier this morning.
Elite athletes spend weeks and months away while traveling and competing on foreign shores.
The Warriors, however, have no idea when they will be able to return to their homes, due to uncertainty over the season's renewed arrangements and border controls in New Zealand.
The impact on their families was poignantly captured in an image of veteran forward Adam Blair hugging his inconsolable son before boarding the plane to Tamworth.
It was quite a challenging time, to be honest, for many of them. They were obviously leaving families, wives, children, girlfriends, Kearney said.
So, I could see that it was a challenge for them, obviously not knowing when we could see them later.
The 50 players and staff will live under strict biosecurity protocols for the next two weeks.
Players will sit alone at separate tables during meals and can only train in groups of 10 or less on the adjacent rugby field due to social distancing rules.
The NRL fined four players last week for breaching self-isolation orders and has threatened stiffer penalties for future transgressions.
With the Warriors in the spotlight, Kearney said he had warned his players to stick to the rules.
I made it quite clear to our group this morning, there is a lot at stake here, we are not talking about a football club, we are talking about competition, he said.
You must be smart, do the right thing, and make our game work again.