BORDER force officials as well as Oxley police have arrived at Tamworth Airport ahead of the New Zealand Warriors who are en route to Australia.
The Alliance Airlines flight carrying the NRL team and support staff left Auckland on Sunday afternoon (New Zealand time) with the flight expected to take about four-and-a-half hours.
They are expected to touch down in Tamworth between 5 and 6pm on Sunday, after their departure was delayed in Auckland.
A temporary customs processing centre has been set-up at the airport inside the terminal with Australian Border Force (ABF) officers deployed from Newcastle on Sunday.
The football squad will then be checked at the airport and cleared by immigration before boarding a bus.
A police escort will then take them to the Mercure Hotel at Wests, where the players will base themselves for 14 days in quarantine.
Tamworth Mayor Col Murray said it will be a first today with staff working around the clock behind the scenes in the lead-up to the landing.
The terminal has been closed to the public and the Alliance Airlines flight is the only scheduled passenger flight to land at the airport on Sunday.
"Airport staff have been working with Australian Border Force staff who will travel from Newcastle to Tamworth this morning to manage immigration procedures for the charter flight from Auckland," Cr Murray said.
"We have never had international passengers disembark here before."
Wests, Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson and The Pub Group's Craig Power have been the driving forces on the Tamworth ground to get the precinct setup for Warriors HQ.
The move - which was only given the green light on Saturday morning - has been allowed by ABF, governments and health authorities because the team will be in complete isolation for the 14-day mandatory period, set down by the federal government's COVID-19 response.
We have never wavered in our commitment to be involved in supporting the resumption of the season. Were now ready to go and couldnt be happier about the prospect of being back on the field at the end of the month," NZ Warriors CEO Cameron George said.
It has been a challenging and often frustrating time for all parties over the last few weeks with so many issues on the table but it has finally come together.
Were exceptionally grateful to both the Australian and New South Wales governments for granting us an exemption and we respect the process theyve had to work through."
It's expected the team will then take the field at Scully Park for training on Monday where they'll train for the first time together in six weeks.
"They will be based at the Mercure Hotel in the West Tamworth League Club precinct just a short walk across the carpark to the fully fenced Scully Park oval for training," Cr Murray said.
"There is no reason for them to leave that confined area where there is everything they need."
Cr Murray said it was positive that Tamworth could play a part in getting the NRL season restarted on May 28.
"We have many NRL fans here in the Tamworth Region and they are certainly proud we can host the Warriors while they are in quarantine," Cr Murray said.
"It's a small part to play in the process to restart the National Rugby League and we are pleased to have the right facilities to allow them to do it safely.
"There are some locals who are a little anxious about international travellers arriving here during the COVID-19 pandemic but health authorities have put very strict quarantine measures in place which the NRL and the Auckland Warriors have agreed to follow.
"I know our local police and health authorities will be monitoring things closely."
Cr Murray joked the Warriors were in debt to Tamworth, and Mr George told the Leader this week they wanted to give back to the city, and would return to say thanks to the community later this year.
"Of course, we are looking forward to a time when social distancing rules do not apply because the Warriors have agreed to return to Tamworth and spend time in our community running some programs including interacting with young players from local schools," Cr Murray said.