Warriors duo barred from re-entering NZ after NRL season due to citizenship issue

The Warriors have been informed two of their players won’t be allowed back in New Zealand at the end of the NRL season in Australia due to the fact they are not citizens.

Eliesa Katoa. Source: Photosport

The Warriors relocated to Australia in May in order for the NRL to restart their season with the knowledge they’d remain there until they had completed all of their matches.

But as a result, both Eliesa Katoa and Selestino Ravutaumada are no longer allowed to return to New Zealand, Fairfax reports.

New Zealand's borders are closed to all but citizens or permanent residents to curb the spread of Covid-19, meaning the duo have been excluded from returning as they are on work visas.

Both Tonga-born Katoa and Fijian Ravutaumada moved to New Zealand as teenagers on sport scholarships and have been residents for more than three years. Ravutaumada was even selected for the Junior Kiwis in that time.

Selestino Ravutaumada played for the Junior Warriors in 2019. Source: Photosport

"They've got the appropriate visas to be in New Zealand," Warriors boss Cameron George told Fairfax.

"It's easily demonstrated that they're residents here, because they've been here for years and gone to school here.

"Yet our border officials say they're not New Zealand residents. I know by definition they need to be citizens, but three months ago they were all of the above."

The issue became apparent after Ravutaumada, who is yet to debut for the Warriors, injured his shoulder and the Kiwi club attempted to bring him back to New Zealand for medical treatment, only to be told he wouldn’t be let back in.

George said he will put the pair up at his family home in Australia until the situation is sorted but the pair are in shock.

“They’re kids, the poor buggers,” he said.

“They’ll be going straight to my family home in Australia and looked after like no other, but I’m just incredibly confused by this.

“These guys have been living in confinement for three months, they’re no risk at all.

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