Sporting codes on both sides of the Tasman have been wrong-footed by the New Zealand government’s decision to bar Australians and foreigners well into 2022.
The Super Rugby Pacific fixture faces an overhaul, while the NBL’s New Zealand Breakers and A-Leagues’ two Wellington Phoenix teams face another all-Australia campaign.
On Wednesday, Jacinda Ardern’s government released a long-awaited timetable to dismantle its hard border and quarantine on arrival.
From January 17, Kiwis in Australia will be able to skip quarantine in favour of self-isolation.
From April 30, Australians and other foreigners will be able to the same.
However, the seven-day self-isolation requirement remains – even for NZ citizens – rendering many sporting competitions unworkable.
The changes also mean the women’s ODI Cricket World Cup, staged in March, will be off-limits to foreign fans.
The government is not planning exemptions for sporting teams until there is health advice to support it.
Deputy Prime Minister and Sport Minister Grant Robertson said the government’s commitment to a seven-day isolation period was firm.
“Of course I want the Super Rugby competition to take place but we’re always led by the health advice,” he said.
“The ministry of health’s advice consistently has been not to have shortened isolation time.
“So if sports teams are going to be using (self-isolation) it will be the same length of time.”
A Rugby NZ spokesman said the organisation was “digesting” the changes, while a Phoenix spokesman struck an optimistic note.
“The Phoenix are looking at what today’s government announcement means for the club getting its men’s and women’s teams back home,” the spokesman said.
“The Phoenix are one of a number of teams/sports that are talking to Sport New Zealand about border restrictions and remain hopeful of playing in New Zealand this season.”
The decision won’t affect the Warriors, who have already committed to spending the 2022 NRL campaign in Australia to avoid any uncertainty.