Gold Coast v North Queensland preview
111 mins ago | Rick Edgerton
Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George has today confirmed the club has been forced to extend the NRL team's stay in Australia until June 21.
The decision means the Vodafone Warriors' first possible home game at Mount Smart Stadium this season will now be their 16th-round match against St George Illawarra on Friday, July 2.
"It was our hope initially that we would be able to return home for our April 9 match against Manly Warringah but the resurgence in Covid-19 transmissions in New Zealand leaves us with no option but to extend our stay," said George.
"Indications are the introduction of any Trans-Tasman bubble will happen later than originally hoped. On that basis, we've had discussions with the NRL and our players and staff about delaying our return to ensure we have some continuity for the first 15 rounds of the competition.
"We thank our members, fans and sponsors for their support, understanding and patience through these challenging times while we've been preparing for the 2021 season at our home away from home on the Central Coast.
"Clearly this hasn't been the outcome we wanted, particularly after being away from home for the entire 2020 season, but I hope our determination to front up for our fans, our partners, and our country gives everyone cause to be proud of the club and excited to be part of another premiership challenge.
"When it's safe to do so, we look forward to sharing the biggest homecoming party with everyone at Mount Smart Stadium but for now the players and staff are focused on the opening round of the season against Gold Coast on Saturday week."
Today's announcement will see the Vodafone Warriors playing a minimum of seven of their 12 homes games in Australia starting with the Gold Coast Titans on March 13 followed by the Newcastle Knights (March 19), Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (April 9), North Queensland Cowboys (May 2), Parramatta Eels (May 16), Wests Tigers (May 21) and Melbourne Storm (June 13). Six of the games will be played at Central Coast Stadium while the match against the Eels will be staged at Suncorp Stadium as part of the NRL's Magic Round.
The Vodafone Warriors plan to travel to Auckland on June 21 following their 15th-round away clash against the Newcastle Knights on June 19.
There is then a break in the NRL schedule for State of Origin's standalone second match at Suncorp Stadium on June 27, giving the Vodafone Warriors time to relocate to Auckland.