Rugby League: Ex-teammates lining up to work with Stacey Jones after NZ Kiwis coaching appointment

Stacey Jones has barely been in his new job a day and icons of the black-and-white jumper are already lining up to work alongside the NZ rugby league legend.

Jones has been unveiled as head coach of NZ Kiwis through the 2026 World Cup, promoted from assistant to replace Michael Maguire.

He reportedly saw off competition from one of the biggest names in the game to earn the role - seven-time NRL Premiership winner Wayne Bennett.

Stacey Jones and Ruben Wiki after beating Australia in 2005.
Stacey Jones and Ruben Wiki after beating Australia in 2005. Photo credit: Photosport

"It's kind of like when you make your debut," Jones said, reflecting on his new job.

Day one in the new job was far from day one with the Kiwis for the 48-test veteran, who is upheld as one of the best players Aotearoa has ever produced.

"It's massive for the game," said NZRL chief executive Greg Peters. "He's a legend of our game. In fact, when you go to Australia, he's more of a legend over there.

'The Little General' emerged as one of the leading candidates out of a shortlist of three, including Bennett.

"Stacey was far and miles ahead of any of the other candidates," Peters added. 

The selection board isn't the not the only one to give their blessing.  

Those down the road at NZ Warriors HQ - where Jones works as an assistant coach under Andrew Webster - were so delighted with the appointment, even chief executive Cameron George turned up to the press conference.

"They were so supportive of me to do this, but also continue in my role there," said a grateful Jones. "I think it's important to still be involved in the footy game."

That sort of relationship has many hoping it'll result in more wanting to don the black jersey and his former teammates are already putting their hands up to also get involved.

"I'm glad he's taken this next step in the right direction of his coaching career... to lead the Kiwis in the next campaign," NZ great Ruben Wiki told Newshub.  

"I've been lucky enough to wear [the NZ jersey] so many times and for a lot of them, Stacey Jones was next to me. Someone had to do his tackling, right?  

"If he does give me the call man, I'm there."

This won't be Jones' first foray into head coaching - he has been in charge of the Warriors junior and feeder programmes, and served as an interim first-grade head coach.

"I've been an assistant coach a long time and eventually assistants get promoted," said Jones.

He'll have plenty of time to prepare his new squad, with the Kiwis not due due to play again until October.