2021 Review: North Queensland Cowboys
4 days ago | Robert Crosby
Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George has today confirmed the club will relocate to Australia for at least the first four rounds of the 2021 NRL season.
In making the announcement he confirmed the full squad would be based in Tamworth for a month from January 3 before moving to Terrigal on the Central Coast where the Vodafone Warriors were in camp from late May until the final round of the COVID19-affected 2020 season.
The decision means the club's first two home games against Gold Coast and Newcastle will now be played at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford after originally being allocated to Mount Smart Stadium when the 2021 draw was released on November 26. The Vodafone Warriors will remain in Australia for their away games against Canberra and the Sydney Roosters in the third and fourth rounds.
"It's not what we want to do but it's what we have to do. Our priority is to ensure we do all we can to enable our team to be as well prepared as it can be for 2021," said George.
"It's a football decision that needs to be made now. We can't afford to speculate about what might or might not happen any longer. We need clarity for our players, staff and families.
"We tried to arrange a quarantine facility like other sporting bodies have done to bring our players from Australia to train here as a squad but our request was declined so we've had to adapt.
"We'll keep abreast of the border situation and in early March will decide with the NRL what the best course of action is after the first four rounds, hopefully returning to New Zealand to play at Mount Smart for the first time since 2019 in round five."
The Vodafone Warriors have been split into two preseason groups since mid-November with 14 of the NRL squad training in Kiama in New South Wales while the rest have been working with new head coach Nathan Brown in Auckland.
On January 3, the New Zealand-based players and staff will fly to Tamworth where they will be joined by the Kiama pod to enable the full 2021 squad - including the club's seven new signings - to train together for the first time ahead of the preseason trials and the season-opening match against the Titans on March 13.
"It's not ideal having the squad split with one group in Auckland and another in Kiama but it has been the only option open to us," said Brown.
"At the same time the focus pre-Christmas is always on physical conditioning and some skill work. It's not until the New Year that we really concentrate on structure, game style and our combinations leading into the trials.
"It's critical getting together as a group which the camp in Tamworth is all about."
Apart from the new signings, Tamworth provides familiarity for players and staff after the Vodafone Warriors quarantined there in May before the 2020 season resumed.