The NRL could be in danger of having to renegotiate a broadcast deal if the homesick NZ Warriors decide to abandon the league and return home in the next month.
According to veteran league reporter Andrew Webster, the league is “walking on eggshells” with regards to the Warriors, with the prospect of the side returning to New Zealand remaining a very real possibility.
The Warriors are understood to have given a commitment to ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys and acting NRL CEO Andrew Abdo that they will remain in Australia for at least another fortnight. However, the future beyond the two-week period is uncertain.
Webster revealed that the NRL had done everything in its power to accommodate the Warriors, including supporting their families back home, in the hope of completing a full season.
“They’re worried that if (the Warriors) do pack up and go, that the ramifications are quite considerable,” Webster told Nine’s 100% Footy.
“They’ll have to renegotiate a broadcast deal and they certainly don’t want to be doing that.
“They also feel like they’re giving the Warriors families plenty of support. It’s not that well known, but they’re giving financial support to some degree to some of the families back in New Zealand.
“They’re also giving financial support and it’s in the budgets for them to be here in lockdown in Australia.
“The NRL feel like they’re doing everything they can for the Warriors to stay, but they’re concerned that in two weeks’ time, particularly if things continue to go south in terms of their performance, that it’s going to be hard to convince some to stay.”
The Warriors’ form has fallen off a cliff in recent weeks, following the stunning sacking of senior coach Stephen Kearney, with the side given a 50-6 drubbing by the Melbourne Storm in Round 7.
While acknowledging the incredible sacrifice of the Warriors players, league great Phil Gould urged the team to “dig in a little bit longer” for the NRL’s sake.
“It’s a difficult time, and I think we all sympathise with the Warriors, but there’s a lot of people whose lives are worse off,” he told 100% Footy.
“They’re playing the game they love, they’re being paid, they’re professional sportspeople, I know it’s a strain being away from your family, but it’s not for that long.
“All the support is being given to your family back home, I just think they’ve got to dig in a little bit longer. We’re all really thankful. We all really understand what you’re going through.
“No one’s criticising them about performances, they’re sort of getting a pass there.
“I think what’s made it worse is the sacking of the coach when they least expected it because that added a morale dip too.
“For the sake of the competition and the game they love, I know it’s a sacrifice, but they’ve just got to deal with it.”
However, former Sharks skipper Paul Gallen said he “sympathised” with the homesick players, particularly those who aren’t getting regular playing time at the moment.
“To them there’s nothing worse than what’s going on at the moment. They’re away from their families and their loved ones,” he told 100% Footy.
“There’s a lot of guys there earning good money, I’ve got no doubt about that, but what about player 25-30 who’s just over here away from their family probably earning $80,000 a year, it’s tough for them.
“I can totally understand why they want to go home. (Roger) Tuivasa-Sheck and guys like that are different, but I sympathise with them totally.”