Fox Sports responds to criticism over Warriors' return to New Zealand

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The Warriors, pictured here after making a triumphant return to New Zealand in emotional scenes.
The Warriors made a triumphant return to New Zealand in emotional scenes. Image: Getty

Fox Sports has hit back at criticism it got it badly wrong in choosing to go with an all-Australian commentary team for the Warriors' emotional homecoming, declaring nothing will change for the remainder of the season.

Brenton Speed and former Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan called the Warriors-Tigers game from a Sydney studio for the Australian audience, sparking debate as to why the New Zealand call team wasn't used to 'add to the atmosphere' on such a big occasion.

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The Warriors, playing their first home game in 1038 days after a Covid-enforced stay in Australia, beat Wests Tigers 22-2 in front of a vocal full house at Mt Smart Stadium.

It was a day full of emotion, colour and drama – and many Australian fans felt Fox missed a beat by not using the New Zealand television feed.

Kiwi viewers received Sky Sports NZ's call, featuring chief commentator Glen Larmer, former Warriors star Adam Blair and ex-New Zealand rugby and NRLW player Honey Hireme-Smiler.

Hireme-Smiler is believed to be the first female to commentate an NRL game as part of the main commentary team.

Fox Sports executive director Steve Crawley denied the decision to call the game 'in-house' came down to logistics or cost, strongly defending the move to use Speed and Flanagan over their New Zealand counterparts.

"Of course the priority is our Australian audience – first, second and third," he told Yahoo Sport Australia.

Bunty Afoa, pictured here thanking the crowd after the Warriors' win over Wests Tigers.
Bunty Afoa thanks the crowd after the Warriors' win over Wests Tigers. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Fox Sports defends lack of Kiwi commentators for Warriors

Asked if that would be the stance for future Warriors game, Crawley replied: "Correct. Why would we not? The Kiwis will go with Kiwis.

"It’s not even a discussion. Over and out."

Despite the protestations, the Warriors-Tigers game attracted the third biggest subscription TV audience (183,000) of the day - a figure which surges well beyond 200,000 when streaming numbers from Kayo are included.

The Warriors are not due to play at home again until round 20 when they meet Melbourne Storm.

There has been informal discussion around playing all their home games in New Zealand next year as a thank-you for basing themselves in Australia for nearly three years, ensuring the competition kept going during Covid.

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