New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is facing increasing demands from a powerful group of former players to sever ties with Test coach Michael Maguire, raising the temperature of an ongoing dispute. It’s expected that the NZRL board might decide Maguire’s fate at an imminent meeting, possibly even this week.
NZRL CEO, Greg Peters, has stated that Maguire will be handed the opportunity to defend his position before the board. At the same time, Maguire is slated to succeed Brad Fittler as head coach of the NSW State of Origin team.
However, this group of legendary Kiwi players disputes the idea that a national coach should simultaneously guide the Blues players, many of whom are Australian or potential Australian players. The influential ex-players argue that Maguire’s role as Blues coach nurtures the development of Australian players, who directly compete against the Kiwis in the Test arena.
This group of past players is rallying behind either Stacey Jones or Nathan Cayless to take the helm of the New Zealand Test team. Jones, a revered figure in New Zealand Rugby history comparable to Mal Meninga, is renowned for fostering a strong team culture, while Cayless, currently Maguire’s assistant coach, has an illustrious history as a player marked by leading the Kiwis to 2008 World Cup glory.
Former Kiwi player Tony Kemp, who served the team between 1989 and 1995, has publicly expressed his belief that Maguire should be dismissed. On SEN radio, he opined that when Maguire returns to coach the Blues, it is another win for the Australians, urging the NZRL to promote their own.
Peters indicated that the upcoming board meeting would be pivotal to deciding the next course, incorporating the viewpoint of the former players. “It will come down to the board meeting, either this week or the next. Michael will have his say, and the board will consider a range of views, including from the current playing group and Michael”, he said. “We do love Maguire, but aren’t considering alternatives right now.”
The NSWRL board is yet to formally confirm its appointment in a respectful acknowledgement of Maguire’s unresolved status with the Kiwis. The board doesn’t object to the ex-South Sydney and Wests Tigers NRL coach taking up both representative positions.
Despite contention from some former players, Maguire enjoys substantial backing for continuing as the New Zealand Test coach. This was particularly boosted after he steered the Kiwis to a sweeping 30-0 victory over Australia in the final of the Pacific Championships. His winning record of 68.4 per cent is unrivalled among previous Kiwi Test coaches.
Maguire, who harbours plans to guide the Kiwis into the 2026 World Cup, said, “I can assure you that this is my plan… I want to stand with my players and achieve success. I want to contribute to a successful team over a long period of time.”