Warriors coach Nathan Brown hopes Rugby League World Cup organisers take a “common sense” approach and postpone the upcoming tournament in England until next year.
It was confirmed on Thursday night that the event will go ahead as scheduled in October and November, despite hesitation from the Kiwis and Kangaroos.
While the New Zealand Rugby League has signed a participation agreement, that was conditional on a number of biosecurity measures yet to be put in place and there remains significant concern about the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the UK.
A decision on the World Cup also comes amidst an outbreak in Sydney that has forced the NRL to relocate 12 of the 16 clubs, including the Warriors, to Queensland just to keep the competition alive.
“If you look at the common sense of it, we’re in isolation up here because there’s 65 people a day in Sydney getting Covid,” Brown said from the Warriors’ new base on the Gold Coast.
“There’s 30,000 a day getting it in England, so you tell me where the common sense lies there?”
With representatives from New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, and even Scotland, the Warriors would be one of the most affected clubs in the NRL should the World Cup take place.
Under normal circumstances, Brown said he would always encourage his players to play representative football.
But the current situation is anything but normal, with many Warriors players forced to live away from home for the last two years due to the pandemic. Expecting them to play in a five-week tournament on the other side of the world, with a 14-day quarantine on top of that, is a lot to ask, the coach said.
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With the mandatory off-season break pushed back for any player involved, a World Cup would also significantly disrupt preparations for next season, placing further strain on the Kiwi club.
“You need rep players to be a successful football club,” Brown added.
“We’re probably the most multicultural club in the competition and the World Cup at the right time is great for everyone. It’s just clearly not the right time with what’s going on at the moment and people having to isolate.
“For us as a club, to see most of our squad turn up in February next year when we’re a new club as it is, with a lot of new players and being on the road for two years straight, I would have thought it’s not the right move for the Warriors.”
Despite Thursday’s World Cup announcement, it won’t be much of a tournament if the players are not on board.
Warriors playmaker Kodi Nikorima has already indicated he would rule himself out of Kiwis contention to support his partner as they await the birth of their second child.
Teammate and Kiwis skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s wife is also expecting their third child in the coming weeks, which Brown revealed the winger has opted to miss because of the isolation requirements associated with the Warriors’ latest relocation.
It’s a “huge sacrifice” the couple have made for the club and Brown couldn’t speak highly enough of Watene-Zelezniak, who only joined the Warriors last month.
“He’s played two games and he’s a player of experience, which has been a good signing for us. But no one expected Dallin to come and that was purely Dallin and his wife’s choice,” Brown said. “Whichever way they went we were fully supportive for obvious reasons.”