The Press

Re-entry blocked for two Warriors

- David Long

Warriors players Eliesa Katoa and Selestino Ravutaumad­a have been banned from returning to New Zealand at the end of the NRL season.

Although both players have lived in New Zealand for numerous years and Ravutaumad­a has represente­d the country, they are not New Zealand citizens, with Katoa from Tonga and Ravutaumad­a Fijian.

They were given exemptions by the Australian Border Force to travel with the rest of the Warriors squad when they left for Australia on May 3.

But the club has been told by the New Zealand Government that neither player will be allowed to return to Auckland once the NRL season is over, because of coronaviru­s restrictio­ns which block non-New Zealand citizens from entering the country.

Katoa and Ravutaumad­a were both in New Zealand on work visas.

Ravutaumad­a, 20, has lived in New Zealand since he was 16, was given a rugby scholarshi­p by Rotorua Boy’s High and signed for the Warriors in 2017.

He has represente­d New Zealand, playing for the New Zealand Schools rugby league team and the Junior Kiwis.

Katoa is also 20, came to New Zealand three years ago, getting a scholarshi­p from Tamaki College.

Warriors chief executive Cameron George says the club has been doing all it can to get the players home.

‘‘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.

‘‘The kids 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.

‘‘But 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.’’

Given the situation Katoa and Ravutaumad­a find themselves in, it’s unlikely they would have left

New Zealand with the other Warriors players in May and it’s only recently they’ve found out they’re in a different boat to their team-mates.

Neither player has any family in Australia so George said he’d put them up at his family home. He said both players had been shocked by the news.

‘‘They’re kids, the poor buggers,’’ he said.

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