Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George has today announced David Fusitu’a, Ken Maumalo, Agnatius Paasi and King Vuniyayawa have been booked to fly home on July 27 to be reunited with their families as soon as possible.
The players had originally committed to stay in Australia only until Sunday’s match against Cronulla-Sutherland unless the NRL succeeded in its efforts to secure travel exemptions for their families to enter Australia.
Due to the unavailability of flights, the four players will now remain with the team another week until after the encounter with the Sydney Roosters on Saturday, July 25.
George said Fusitu’a, Maumalo, Paasi and Vuniyayawa had the total support of the players, staff and the club. The same applied for Leivaha Pulu who returned home two weeks ago.
“We can’t say enough about the sacrifice they have made being away from their families so long,” he said.
“We fully understand the predicament they have been in and we’re so appreciative of what they have done in committing to the cause for as long as they have.
“When we travelled to Australia we promised the players everything possible in our control would be done to secure travel exemptions for their families to join them there.
“Ultimately the decision lies with government agencies to approve the applications the NRL made on our behalf. There hasn’t been any sign of a favourable result, which we accepted was always a possibility. Given those circumstances David, Ken, Agantius and King are free to go home.
“As well as thanking them for all they’ve done we would like to thank Peter V’landys and the NRL for all the work they’ve put in for the players and their families. I would also like to thank the RLPA staff for their support of the players during this time. We’re hugely disappointed it hasn’t worked out as we would have liked but it was out of our control.”
Rugby League Players’ Association CEO Clint Newton commended the returning players and thanked Vodafone Warriors management for their commitment to working through the process.
“The club’s management has shown a level of compassion for the players in working through this and we appreciate their understanding of the unique set of circumstances each player is faced with,” he said.
“These players and their families have made tremendous sacrifices since March when the challenges first began, which should be recognised as they return home to New Zealand at the end of the month.
“I would also like to recognise the remaining Vodafone Warriors squad and staff for their ongoing commitment and effort in these uncertain times.”
On arriving home, the players will be required to go into isolation for 14 days before they can finally see their families next month.
George said consideration was now being given to how best to replace the returning players in the squad.