Rugby league: Future bright for NZ Kiwis despite loss of coach Michael Maguire, says NZ Rugby League chief executive

Even after the loss of coach Michael Maguire, the future is still bright for NZ Kiwis, as New Zealand's presence in rugby league continues to go from strength to strength.  

On Friday, NZ Rugby League was hit by the resignation of coach Maguire, who is widely expected to be confirmed as head coach of the New South Wales side in State of Origin.  

While Maguire wanted to and was confident in his ability to do both roles, NZ Rugby League weren't willing to budge on prioritising the international game.

The great sadness from a New Zealand perspective comes in the form of the Kiwis' last result being a record 30-0 demolition of Australia.

NZ Kiwis celebrate.
NZ Kiwis celebrate. Photo credit: Photosport

And while the Australians were largely at full strength, the Kiwis were without the likes of Shaun Johnson, Marata Niukore, Brandon Smith, Scott Sorensen, Jordan Riki and other players who are bona fide stars in the NRL.

While there is a mutual sadness between New Zealand Rugby League and Michael Maguire over the situation, the playing group that the Kiwis can call upon is arguably as strong as it's ever been. 

Aside from that victory over Australia, the Pacific Championship also saw the Kiwis beat Toa Samoa 50-0, giving New Zealand shutout victories over the last two Rugby League World Cup finalists.

And even with curtailed opportunities thanks to the NRL and ARL's neglect of the international game, the Kiwis are in a healthy position to build towards the next World Cup in 2026.  

But for NZRL chief executive Greg Peters, the current crop of players give plenty of hope for the future. 

"I think with the player group we've got right now, we've got a pretty special group of players," Peters told Newshub.

"[There's] a leadership group, led by James Fisher-Harris as our captain and other senior leaders, who are outstanding, and have driven new standards within the team themselves.

"It bodes pretty well for the future."

For now, though, the biggest question will be who takes the reins to coach this current side.

At present, only one coach among the NRL's 17 sides is a New Zealander; rookie Benji Marshall.

Should NZRL want a Kiwi to lead the national side towards the next World Cup, there would be a very short list of potential candidates.

Former greats Stacey Jones and Nathan Cayless have both been put forward as potential options. Jones is currently working as an assistant at NZ Warriors, while Cayless took charge of the New Zealand 'A' side during the last international window.

But with no internationals scheduled until the end of 2024 at the earliest, Peters outlines there is no rush from his organisation to appoint a new head coach.

"We'll need a full and comprehensive process," he continued. "We don't have to hurry about.

"Unfortunately, we don't play again until October next year. We've got plenty of time to work through that."