Victorious Vodafone Junior Warriors coach Stacey Jones has tonight been confirmed as the club’s New South Wales Cup coach in 2015.
In an exceptional rookie season as NYC coach the 38-year-old club legend completed an unprecedented feat of guiding the Vodafone Junior Warriors from eighth place to the premiership when they held on to beat the Brisbane Broncos 34-32 at ANZ Stadium today.
As he did throughout his glittering 261-game playing career for the club, Jones also created a slice of personal history when he became the first ex-Vodafone Warriors player to coach the club to a premiership.
His New South Wales Cup appointment next year enables him to take a critical step forward in his coaching career, a position which will also see him work closely with Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden and the NRL side.
Jones takes over from Rohan Smith, who has returned to Australia, while current NYC assistant coach Kelvin Wright steps up to coach the side in 2015.
“We’ve always seen a big future for Stacey as a coach,” said Vodafone Warriors general manager football Dean Bell.
“He has done a brilliant job winning the premiership with our NYC side, coming from eighth to first in a season when he didn’t have the use of many of our best juniors for most of the season.
“Due to our philosophy of developing NRL players, many who were eligible to play in the NYC this year were used the next level up in the New South Wales Cup and also the NRL in the case of David Fusitu’a and Tuimoala Lolohea.
“This resulted in Stacey having a very young group of players for most of the year with a number of 17-year-olds making their debuts. Despite that he has taken us to success in the NYC. It’s a huge achievement.”
McFadden said he wanted Jones to not only move up to the NSW Cup level but to also have a heavier involvement with the club’s NRL players.
“He has been really impressive coaching our young players and coming through our pathway,” he said.
“I’m excited about having him involved around our NRL players and bringing the expertise and knowledge he has to help them.
“Stacey also has an unrivalled understanding of and attachment to the club. It has been such a big part of his life.”
Jones’ only thoughts until now had been on preparing the Vodafone Junior Warriors for the NYC grand final against Brisbane.
“That’s all I’ve been thinking about. It was the absolute priority,” he said.
“The players have been fantastic and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of coaching week in, week out throughout the season.
“I’m just thrilled to see them achieve success. They’ve worked so hard for it and it’s a real boost for our club in what we’re trying to achieve.
“I want to enjoy this moment with the team for now but stepping up to the New South Wales Cup is going to be exciting, a great challenge. The Vodafone Warriors mean everything to me and I’ll do all I can to help us to go to the next level.”
As a foundation player, Jones had 12 first-grade seasons with the club from 1995 to 2005 plus a comeback campaign in 2009. He was on the coaching staff in a part-time role in 2008 before devoting himself to business interests and coaching his junior club Point Chevalier.
When he took over the Pirates they were at the bottom of Auckland’s three-tiered club competition but he guided them to grand final victories in both 2010 and 2011 to earn the club promotion to the Fox Memorial championship. The Pirates have since gone on to win the premiership in both 2013 and 2014 by beating Mount Albert in the grand final both times. He worked for the Auckland Rugby League in 2012 before coming ‘home’ again to the Vodafone Warriors as junior recruitment and pathways coach last year.
It means Jones has been involved with club for 15 of its 20 seasons in existence.
His NYC coach replacement Wright has also emerged through both the local scene and the club’s system to earn promotion.
After a long and successful playing career including representing New Zealand Residents, Auckland, the Vulcans and Mount Albert, he began coaching with the Otara Scorpions in the Auckland competition in 2011 before guiding the Bay Roskill Vikings in the Fox Memorial premiership in 2012.
He was appointed Vodafone Junior Warriors assistant coach in 2013, is Junior Warriors assistant coach again this year after also doing the job last year and is joining the Kiwis’ coaching staff for this year’s Four Nations.
“It’s a great opportunity for Kelvin and underlines the pathways we have for local coaches to advance,” said Bell.
“At the same time, we wish Rohan all the best and thank him for the job he did with the NSW Cup side this year by getting through to week two of the play-offs.”
Smith is joining Gold Coast’s NRL coaching staff.