Rugby League: NZ Kiwis legend Stacey Jones confirmed as rookie national team coach

Rugby league legend Stacey 'Little General' Jones has been confirmed as new rookie NZ Kiwis coach.

Jones, 47, played 48 games for the Kiwis during a decorated career from 1995-2006 and served as assistant coach under predecessor Michael Maguire from 2018-23.

Maguire led New Zealand to a record 30-0 victory over Australia in November's Pacific Championship final at Hamilton, but soon after, took the reins of New South Wales for this year's State of Origin series.

Jones' appointment runs through until the end of the 2026 Rugby League World Cup.

Stacey Jones in action.
Stacey Jones in action. Photo credit: Photosport

NZ Rugby League ruled he could not hold both jobs and advertised the vacancy, with NRL supercoach Wayne Bennett and World Cup-winning Kiwis captain Nathan Cayless reportedly among short-listed candidates.

Jones has become an institution on the NZ Warriors staff since hanging up his boots in 2005, but his only head coaching experience was a reluctant interim stint, after the departure of Nathan Brown in 2022. Under his direction, they won two of 11 games.

He'll continue in his current role with the Warriors, where he's been an assistant coach for the past eight years.

"This is a huge honour for me," said Jones.

"It was a special privilege to play for my country and to now have the chance to coach the Kiwis is both exciting and humbling.

"I've enjoyed working with the Kiwis over the last few years and seeing the team develop under Madge (Michael Maguire). I've learnt so much being involved with such a special group of players.

"I'm hugely grateful to the Warriors for the coaching opportunities they've given me to put me in this position and for the way they supported me in my bid for this role wth the Kiwis while continuing to work at the club."

NZRL chief executive Greg Peters says Jones was the stand-out candidate for the position.

"We're delighted to be appointing an absolute legend of the game to coach the Kiwis," said Peters.

"Stacey has served a lengthy apprenticeship with the Warriors and has also been with us as a long-term assistant coach with the Kiwis.

"It's personally pleasing to see him rewarded with this appointment.

"Not only is he an outstanding individual with a deep knowledge and understanding of 'The Kiwi Way', he is a technically astute coach who understands what it takes to operate at the top international level.

"We are grateful to the Warriors for supporting his appointment and allowing him the time to do it.

"We are also excited about the opportunity this appointment provides to bring the game closer together in New Zealand by strengthening the connection with the Warriors."