The New Zealand Warriors have drawn up a wish list of possible replacements for three homesick players who are on the verge of quitting the NRL season.
- Players have been told the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne has not helped their bid for trans-Tasman travel clearance
- Up to four Warriors players are considering their options
- The Warriors’ family applications would be among thousands assessed by authorities
Interim coach Todd Payten said the Warriors had given NRL bosses an ultimatum, saying three players would head home to New Zealand if their families were not allowed to join them in Australia by the time of their round 10 match against Cronulla on July 19.
Payten said wingers David Fusitu’a and Ken Maumalo and prop Agnatius Paasi had become increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress, particularly as the league had told the club the exemptions would be achievable before they agreed to base themselves in Australia.
In a teleconference on Saturday, NRL bosses Peter V’Landys and Andrew Abdo told the players the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne had not helped the club’s fight for trans-Tasman travel clearance.
While V’Landys vowed to pursue new means of getting the families across the Tasman, the players decided it was time to set a deadline.
“There was a lot of talking. In the end we basically told them that they’ve got 23 days at that moment to get it sorted,” Payten said.
Warriors chief executive Cameron George said over the weekend that four players, including forward Leivaha Pulu, would consider their options.
Payten said he was only aware of three, and that the rest of the squad had committed to staying at their Terrigal base, two months into their Australian vigil.
The Warriors’ family applications would be among thousands assessed by Government authorities, leaving Peyton reluctant to blame V’Landys.
“He said everything happening in Victoria is not helping our situation,” Peyton said.
“He has reapplied and is taking it higher up the food chain, so to speak. He also mentioned a possible bubble opening up between Queensland and Auckland.
Peyton said it was prudent to begin formulating a list of loan player candidates, under the assumption that Fusitu’a, Maumalo and Paasi would depart.
“It’d be idiotic to leave it until they go and then get caught with our pants down,” he said.
“There’s a list being looked at daily. If we haven’t heard anything within a week, we’ve got to, I guess, push down that path a little bit further.”
The Warriors have already called on two front-row loan reinforcements this year because of injuries, adding to many disruptions, including the surprise sacking of coach Stephen Kearney.