Rugby league: Changing the narrative: Warriors boss reveals new outlook for 2021

As the Warriors set out for an extended stay in Australia today, club chief executive Cameron George was emphatic as to what their goal is inthe 2021 NRL season.

“We’re going over there to try win this competition,” he said.

In 2020, the narrative around the Warriors was that of a feel-good story; players and staff separated from their families, based in Australia for months simply to remain a part of the NRL.

Rightfully so, the club was applauded for the sacrifices they made and work they put in to competing in the NRL last year. However, in 2021, George wants to change that narrative.

The Auckland-based members of the team flew out for Tamworth this morning where they will link up with the Australian-based players and staff. They’ll spend a month in Tamworth before relocating to Terrigal where they will be based for at least the first four rounds of the NRL season, which begins in March.

And while their 2020 season was largely dependent on off-the-cuff planning, this time around they’ve had plenty of time to get prepared, and the players will be joined by their families – either immediately, with some of team bringing their families to Tamworth, or in Terrigal.

“The pats on the back and the feel sorry for us sort of attitude last year I’m sure helped the boys throughout a pretty tough period, but as a club we’re doing this because we want to be in the competition,” George said.

“We’re choosing to, and are willing and able to, go over there and do it.

“Last year we were caught in the hop, everyone in the world was. We were in Australia with an overnight bag basically. This time we’re planned, we’re organised, we’re ready to go ahead and understand what is in front of us.”

George himself had to remain in Auckland last season due to a limit on the numbers that could travel with the group. With the high level of interest in the team as well as some rumours circulation throughout the season, George did well to deal with media and stamp out fires while not being on the ground with the team.

With the 2021 season quickly approaching, the major uncertainty is when they will be able to return to New Zealand.

The club had announced they would be playing in Auckland for their round-five clash against the Manly Sea Eagles in early April as the Transtasman bubble was expected to be established by then.

However, with an increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Australia, that date is beginning to look more and more unlikely.

Speaking about the situation, George said the club would likely make a call some time in March as to whether they would have to prolong their stay in Australia.

“I suspect it will be,” George said when asked if the return date would be pushed back. “Fingers crossed that changes and our Prime Minister looks after us and gets us home.”

With that being the only worry, there was a buzz about the team as they arrived at Auckland International Airport ready to depart. Capatin Roger Tuivasa-Sheck said it was much easier to leave this time around.

“It’s planned, that’s probably the best part,” Tuivasa-Sheck said. “With the families coming over we’re all set, we’ve all put our mindset on where we need to go to.

“A lot of the boys are excited. We’re more prepared, we’re taking a big group with lot of the young boys, meeting up with the Aussie boys when we’re over there – a lot of new players, new staff; it’s all exciting at this stage so we’re looking forward to getting over there and having a good crack.”

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