Warriors NRL pair blocked from NZ return

Pacific-born Warriors players Eliesa Katoa and Selestino Ravutaumada have been blocked from returning to New Zealand because they aren't Kiwi citizens.

ELIESA KATOA.
ELIESA KATOA. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

The Warriors say they are devastated that rising NRL players Eliesa Katoa and Selestino Ravutaumada have been blocked from returning to New Zealand indefinitely.

Chief executive Cameron George confirmed the NZ government wouldn't allow the two 20-year-olds to return home under its COVID-19 restrictions, in which only Kiwi citizens could enter.

It is a body blow in a tumultuous season for the club, who had received exemption from Australian officials to base themselves across the Tasman for the entire NRL season.

George said no leeway had been granted to allow Tongan-born second-rower Katoa and Fijian-born Ravutaumada to return, leaving him to make plans for the pair to remain in Australia when the rest of the squad flew back at the end of the season.

"We've been advised that they won't be permitted entry back into the country due to their status, which is devastating for us to hear," George told stuff.co.nz.

"The kids have been schooling here (NZ) for a number of years, contributing to the economy in many different ways, have had the credentials and authorisation to live in New Zealand with their visas and they're over there representing our country in the NRL.

"What are we going to do with them now? They've got no family in Australia and it's just another major bump in our road for 2020."

Rookie Katoa has emerged as one of the club's most-promising players in recent seasons, signing a four-year extension in May on the back of his blockbusting early performances.

Like Ravutaumada, he was lured to New Zealand in his teens on a college rugby union scholarship before being spotted by Warriors scouts.

Ravutaumada, who is yet to play first grade, has represented the Junior Kiwis.

George said the club had been surprised to learn of their status, which only came light recently when long-term planning for flights home began.

The Warriors had regarded the pair as simply employees of a Kiwi company when they crossed the Tasman in early May, fulfilling their contract - as well as keeping the NRL afloat.

George called on NZ immigration officials to review the situation.

"I'm just incredibly confused by this. These guys have been living in confinement for three months - they're no risk at all," he said.

"They'd go through quarantine, isolation, all of the appropriate procedures, with the rest of the team. I'm just devastated with the system."