“There’s a touch of sadness that the competition is off but, yeah, I know there was an element of relief when the boys got the news,” Kearney said.
“It was a bit of a challenge but we wanted to get on with the job. That’s what the situation demanded. You look around and watch the news, it’s tough for everyone.”
The pace of the pandemic’s spread and the increasingly draconian measures being put in place to halt it has been rapid. The Warriors face a 14-day isolation when they return home and New Zealand, like many parts of the world, could well be moving to a complete lockdown.
That wasn’t the kind of scenario players and staff wanted to be in when they were out of reach of loved ones. Kearney said a beach walk on Sunday morning, after Saturday’s loss to the Raiders, presented some sobering realities.
“That’s was when a lot of stuff began to hit home. We went for a walk after the match on Sunday morning and were listening to some podcasts and you quickly realise how severe and dire the situation is worldwide.
“It’s going to take some time, no doubt. And that’s what was going to be the challenging part over coming weeks, if we were to keep going, how all that was going to transpire. Given they wouldn’t have been able to get into the country, it was a big challenge.”
Some players went home once the travel bans were put in place, including Peta Hiku, whose partner was expecting a child. Kearney said an emotional Hiku had been on the phone feeling as if he had let the team down. Senior players quickly assured him he was in the right place.
“They have been tremendous. I knew that from the beginning. Guys back home, Peta Hiku, he was in tears on the phone wanting to come and help out. His partner hadn’t had a baby yet but the leadership group was telling him ‘it will be all right’.
“It’s a real testament to them and the character they showed. I’m very proud of them.”