The Vodafone Warriors will be based in Redcliffe north of Brisbane for the 2022 NRL season but are planning to play up to half of their home games in New Zealand.
While Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George said returning to Mount Smart Stadium for 2022 was the preference that option had become unrealistic due to the ongoing border volatility created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
After spending most of 2020 and 2021 in camp in Terrigal on the New South Wales Central Coast, George said the Australian Rugby League Commission and the NRL had approved the Vodafone Warriors’ second-choice option to move their operation to Queensland.
“Our dream hasn’t changed. We’d love to be back in Auckland playing at home in front of our families, members, fans and sponsors next year but we also have to ensure everyone here has some stability in their lives,” he said.
“With the preseason starting in early November we don’t have much time to work with.
“We can’t get our players, staff and families back to New Zealand in the foreseeable future so we need to have a base here, not to mention considering all the needs of our players, families and staff like accommodation, schools and job opportunities for partners.”
“Our dream hasn’t changed. We’d love to be back in Auckland playing at home in front of our families, members, fans and sponsors next year but we also have to ensure everyone here has some stability in their lives”
George said the club’s partnership with the Redcliffe Dolphins was the key to the proposal.
“We joined forces with the Dolphins two years ago and this wouldn’t have been possible without the help of (CEO) Tony Murphy and our friends at the club,” he said.
“The Dolphins have got great facilities for our training needs and a wonderful venue in the Moreton Daily Stadium for the home games we’ll play there. This gives us some certainty about our plans for 2022. We couldn’t be more grateful.
“At the same time, we are leaving the option open to play games back home.
“Our members and fans have waited so long. We had to cancel plans to play the Bulldogs in Auckland in August and that really hurt.
“We’re hoping the landscape will settle down to enable us to play five or six of our home games in New Zealand during the 2022 season”
Redcliffe Leagues Club CEO Tony Murphy said the Dolphins were delighted to be able to help the Vodafone Warriors.
“We appreciate what they’ve done in the face of the challenges they’ve had over the last two years,” he said.
“We’ve developed a great friendship since joining forces and we’re here to do all we can to help the Vodafone Warriors get through the coming preseason and the 2022 competition.
“As well as having outstanding training and rehabilitation facilities, Moreton Daily Stadium and its facilities are already proven to be of NRL quality with five games played at the venue after the NRL competition was relocated to South East Queensland.
“Another major factor in the Warriors’ move here is the location and accessibility of the Dolphins’ base which is only 20 minutes from the airport, 30 minutes from the Brisbane CBD and close to the beautiful Sunshine Coast. The entire region forms the heartland of the proposed Dolphins NRL team.
“It’s going to be a privilege to have the Vodafone Warriors in our community”
Mayor Peter Flannery promised the Vodafone Warriors would feel right at home in the Moreton Bay Region.
“Our region is a home away from home for Kiwis. We already have 21,000 New Zealand-born residents living locally and the Dolphins are a feeder club for the Warriors,” he said.
“And what an inspiration for kids from Arana Hills to Bribie Island to be able to see the legendary Warriors playing in their own backyard. I reckon you’ll see a surge in local footy enrolments in 2022 off the back of this incredible opportunity.
“We’ll be sure to make the Warriors everyone’s favourite team in 2022, as part of our campaign for our very own NRL licence.
“Through the misery of Covid, this is a real opportunity for our region as it opens our club to a whole new market of fans and business opportunities that the others simply can’t muster.
“We have been strategically fostering our relationship with New Zealand as a trade and investment partner, even hosting a special Trade and Investment Queensland breakfast with New Zealand Consul-General Bill Dobbie in February this year.
“That event showcased our proximity to Brisbane Airport and the Port of Brisbane and the seamless logistical networks we have locally to trade with international markets, especially a close neighbour like New Zealand.”
As the Vodafone Warriors’ feeder club, Redcliffe has provided a platform through its Intrust Super Cup for six players to make their NRL debuts this year. Rocco Berry (#258), Reece Walsh (#259), Edward Kosi (#260), Taniela Otukolo (#261), Viliami Vailea (#264) and Jackson Frei (#265) all played for the Dolphins before stepping up to the NRL.
A number of other Vodafone Warriors squad members have also appeared for Redcliffe at some stage this year including Marcelo Montoya, Kane Evans. Josh Curran, Eliesa Katoa, Sean O’Sullivan, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Jack Murchie, Tom Ale, Pride Petterson-Robati and, most recently. David Fusitu’a in his comeback from long-term injury.
Vodafone Warriors contracted players have also been playing for Redcliffe’s junior teams while Dolphins players were involved in the Vodafone Warriors’ preseason campaign.
Redcliffe has produced some of the biggest names to come out of Queensland including the legendary Arthur Beetson, Petero Civoniceva, Chris Close, John Ribot, former Vodafone Warrior Brent Tate and Daly Cherry-Evans.