Sunday Telegraph Sport Nick Walshaw story: New Zealand Warriors NRL players fill in their night at their Kingscliff lodgings. Supplied
Sunday Telegraph Sport Nick Walshaw story: New Zealand Warriors NRL players fill in their night at their Kingscliff lodgings. Supplied

Isolation and undies: Inside Camp Warriors

Want to know the biggest issue facing rugby league's great new saviour?

Easy, says Warriors football manager Dan Floyd. "Underwear. Right now, that's the most requested item I'm getting from the boys."

Then after that?

"Probably toiletries," continues a fella who, with apologies to Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V'landys, is now the busiest anywhere in rugby league.

"They're wanting toothpaste, deodorant, stuff like that.

"You have to remember, we were only coming into Australia for three nights. So our entire squad just booked in with carry-on luggage … and no liquids over 100ml."

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Which has made things slightly, err, problematic in recent days. Same deal the lack of sanitiser, Steedens, strapping tape, even civvies.

Although just on that last issue, things are finally looking up thanks to a desperation call to the club's major sponsor Canterbury, who boasts a factory up in Queensland.

"So they've been sending us a heap of clothes," Floyd says.

"We've also had the players' wives and partners pack bags, which are being shipped over, too.

"Although given the restrictions with Customs, we aren't sure when they'll land. You just have to throw it all into the blur."

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to life for the Kingscliff Warriors.

This unlikely mob of NRL saviours who, put simply, have sacrificed everything the rest of us hold dear - think family, home cooking, even a hug from mum - to ensure the code continues through this craziest of COVID-19 pandemics.

 

Card games will while the hours away.
Card games will while the hours away.

 

 

 

Currently bunkered down near the Queensland border, the entire New Zealand Warriors squad has spent this past week making a new home of makeshift digs at Peppers Salt Resort & Spa, Kingscliff.

Despite initially crossing the ditch for just three nights, the Warriors have now been in Australia for 11 days - and counting. With club officials promising on Friday to stay on for as long as the footy continues.

The decision that, you should also know, has also seen the Kiwis fly in another four players and two staffers, all of whom who are now undergoing 14 days' isolation at a secret location.

Under strict Federal Government guidelines, quarantined athletes can only train in groups of no more than five.

It means when the incoming quartet are doing fitness with their conditioner, the sixth member of said group - a physio - cannot be present.

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Further north in Camp Warriors, the squad is settling into a life where every player has his own private suite and downtime consists of Xbox, table tennis, Rummy, even Monopoly.

With nine fathers among their number, Skype sessions have also become an essential part of daily routine.

So strange is the Warriors' situation, the players would not have been allowed into Cbus Stadium for their match against Canberra last night if they were anything but players.

Despite arriving in Australia before the Federal Government's 14-day isolation policy was invoked last Sunday, the NRL is imposing stricter guidelines, which includes banning anyone who jetted into the country within the past 14 days.

As of Saturday night, the Warriors were still on day 10.

 

 

Life on the road hasn’t been kind so far. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
Life on the road hasn’t been kind so far. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

 

Yet due to the uniqueness of their situation, the side is being allowed play on and effectively save a code that, by its own admission, cannot afford financially to pause.

Which comes with a thousand unseen issues.

"Like living and training in different time zones," Floyd says, referencing the hour difference between NSW and Queensland during daylight saving - a truth none of these New Zealanders knew until the team bus they booked, well, it never showed.

Elsewhere, the Warriors' high-performance staff have also hired a local gym, the Cudgen Hornets training field and asked resort staff to brush buffets and instead they handed over detailed meal plans.

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Adam Blair amid Cbus Super Stadium’s empty seats against the Raiders. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
Adam Blair amid Cbus Super Stadium’s empty seats against the Raiders. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

 

The NRL has also assisted with everything from masseurs, gear vans and hand sanitisers, while Gold Coast Titans staff hand delivered bags of Steedens this week.

Kangaroos high-performance manager Troy Thompson is also among dozens chipping in, loaning all the high-performance technology for a team also granted permission to train on Cbus Super Stadium once a week.

But as for that most important commodity, the players?

"It's been hard," Floyd concedes. "Having the guys tell their kids, 'Sorry, but I don't know when daddy will be coming home', that's tough.

"And really, who does know? Things are changing every day.

"Right now, I'd like to think Kingscliff is home. But it wouldn't surprise me if Monday morning we're on the move again."

Originally published as Isolation and undies: Inside Camp Warriors