Coronavirus: Warriors plead for government support after NRL’s postponement

27

New Zealand Warriors CEO Cameron George said he will ask the New Zealand government and NRL for financial support as the rugby league club face an uncertain future due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The NRL suspended its season indefinitely on Monday amid the COVID-19 crisis, which has killed over 16,500 people globally.

Australia’s rugby league competition had initially attempted to continue playing behind closed doors, with New Zealand-based side the Warriors staying in Australia.

But stricter travel measures across Australia forced the NRL to postpone the 2020 campaign, and George has pleaded for additional assistance to keep the Warriors viable.

“We’ve always had our challenges given our environment, our landscape, rugby union’s strength here, but this is unprecedented for us,” George told NRL.com.

“If sponsors walk away, members walk away, we’re in the hole for millions and millions of dollars like every other club. But when you don’t have that avid rugby league landscape around you, it’s harder to pull it back.

“We can’t sit around for months without playing. The challenge we have as opposed to others, I can tell you pretty sensibly that we’re not going to have teams travelling to New Zealand this year.

“We’d lose all our home games. The international travel and border restrictions is something only we face. It will hammer us. It’s hammering us now.”

On whether the Warriors may need more assistance than their NRL rivals, George added: “Hopefully they look upon us a little bit differently, especially after the last couple of weeks. We’d hope for a little bit more to keep us going but who knows.”

The Warriors stayed in New South Wales for almost two weeks as the NRL tried to keep its season alive, but the team are now en route back to New Zealand, where they are set to embark on 14 days of self-isolation.

“I don’t have regrets. When I look back on how we handled it, it was important for me at all stages that I allowed the players to have ample time to discuss the options with their families,” George told reporters on Tuesday.

“Everyone was armed with the right information to make the right decision. They always had our support, whichever way they went.

“When they decided to stay all-in and continue in the competition, I felt that was extremely courageous. I felt it was really sensible from their part and I felt that at all times, the players were putting the club and the fans first, with support from their families.”