Melbourne captain Cameron Smith and coach Craig Bellamy both addressed the Warriors players after their 50-6 demolition at the hands of the Storm on Friday night.
Playing their first game since the shock sacking of Stephen Kearney, the Warriors looked like a deflated outfit both during the game and after.
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The flogging has only compounded a difficult period for the Warriors who have been uprooted during the coronavirus pandemic, basing themselves in Australia away from family and friends.
But in an inspiring act of sportsmanship, Smith, Bellamy and former Warriors star Ryan Hoffman were captured in the dressing rooms after the game, addressing the Warriors players and praising them for their sacrifice during this period.
“There are some former Storm players currently playing for the Warriors, as well as Ryan Hoffman is a former Warriors player as well,” Queensland coach Kevin Walters said on Fox Sports.
“I think it’s great. I think everyone in the game feels for the Warriors, what they’re going through.
“Sometimes a voice from another club, saying hang in there fellas we appreciate what you’re doing, could be the turning factor for the Warriors and where their season is heading.”
The shock gesture was widely praised on social media.
Those #FoxLeague exclusive pictures of the Warriors dressing room with Cameron Smith and Craig Bellamy as guests are extremely powerful. Great vision that is just an awesome part of #NRL all captured by #FoxLeague. 👏— Michael Sullivan (@Sullivan87M) June 26, 2020
If you ever wanted to know the real Cameron Smith, this image tells you everything you need to know. His leadership is second to none. Thanking NZ Warriors for the sacrifice they’re making. It’s why @storm are the club they are. Success starts and ends with people. All class #NRL pic.twitter.com/F33J1Iyvda— Daniel Watson Hayes™ (@dwatsonhayes) June 27, 2020
Full marks to @storm captain Cameron Smith, coach Craig Bellamy, and assistant Ryan Hoffman for consoling and thanking the @NZWarriors last night. What our great game is all about. pic.twitter.com/dj4f9AGa3i— The Mole (@9_Moley) June 26, 2020
I must congratulate the Storm on this occasion.— Beges007 OAM (@beges007) June 27, 2020
I am not a fan of the club but full credit to Craig Bellamy Cameron Smith & Ryan Hoffman showing respect to their opponents.
Remember that the Warriors sacrifices have assisted Nrl to continue this season. https://t.co/RzfikJIsgm
People give it to Cameron Smith but not many others would do this post game He knew they were struggling so a wonderful gesture and not just about winning— jason quealey (@jq1970) June 27, 2020
Warriors re-commit to Australia stay
Meanwhile, Warriors players have re-committed to staying in Australia for at least another two weeks, allaying fears some of their stars could return home to New Zealand.
ARL Commission chair Peter V'landys and interim chief executive Andrew Abdo spoke to the Warriors playing group on Saturday morning about their concerns.
The assurance comes as the team cops a further blow with skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck charged for a grade one shoulder charge, which is set to cost him a week.
The fullback was pinged for his hit on Felise Kaufusi in Friday's loss to Melbourne, and will miss a week whether he takes the early guilty plea or unsuccessfully challenges the charge at the judiciary.
It adds more pain for the squad, which is already under significant strain after eight weeks in Australia and set to remain for the near future.
“They are committed to staying on for at least the next couple of weeks while continuing to monitor the situation,” Abdo told News Corp Australia following Saturday's meeting.
“They have and will continue to make great sacrifices for the rest of the competition.”
The meeting came after Warriors caretaker coach Todd Payten conceded players leaving for Auckland was a possibility - and he wasn't going to stand in their way.
Wingers David Fusitu'a and Ken Maumalo, as well as prop Agnatius Paasi, were reportedly among a group of players looking to return home.
Kearney's axing prompted speculation some players, who have spent almost two months away, were seriously contemplating leaving their current base in Gosford.
“There's a possibility that may happen. I'm not going to stand in their way. I don't think any of us will stand in their way,” Payten said post-game.
“But we'll cross that when it happens.”
Players with families based in Australia have already entered camp, adding to the frustrations of those who remain away from relatives.
It is understood the league is trying to work with federal authorities on granting exemptions for players' families to fly across the Tasman.