League: Stacey Jones to be new under-20s coach

By Michael Brown

Warriors' living legend to take over from Ackland with coaching assistance from old mate Guttenbeil

Stacey Jones. Photo / NZPA
Stacey Jones. Photo / NZPA

Stacey Jones is set to be unveiled as the Warriors' under-20s coach for next season, taking over from John Ackland who won't be seeking a contract extension at the end of the season.

The club confirmed on Tuesday of Ackland's intention to move on after four years in the role and indicated an announcement on his replacement would be made soon.

Jones will take over, with good friend and former Warriors teammate Awen Guttenbeil believed to be considering an offer to work alongside him. The pair were co-coaches for Pt Chevalier and more recently have been working together at the Warriors. Late last year, Jones was appointed as Warriors junior recruitment and pathways coach and Guttenbeil has been assisting Jones in the development programme.

It would seem a logical appointment by the Warriors, given the coaching pathway established there, but also an astute one.

Ackland is a popular figure in Auckland league circles and among his players but Jones is among the club's all-time greats.

He played 261 games across two stints and maintains a long-running association with the Warriors. He had a club-record 12 seasons as a player (1995-2005 and 2009) plus another as part-time kicking coach in 2008.

The only years he has been absent from Mt Smart Stadium in an official capacity was in 2006 and 2007 when he played for Catalans in the Super League and 2010-2012 when he was involved with Pt Chevalier. He has also worked as Auckland Rugby League's football development officer.

Guttenbeil also has a close affinity with the Warriors having played 170 games for them between 1996 and 2006.

The Junior Warriors are on a two-match winning run, which is bettered by the first-grade side, who have won their last three.

Both outfits will take on the Roosters in Sydney tomorrow night, but the NRL squad will be without fullback Kevin Locke who has remained in Auckland.

Locke missed last weekend's important 18-16 win over Manly with a hip flexor injury which hasn't improved enough for him to play. It means Glen Fisiiahi will remain at fullback where he was so impressive against the Sea Eagles and Ngani Laumape will start on the wing.

Coach Matt Elliott, who will be in charge of his 250th game as an NRL coach, has plenty of cover considering he named an extended seven-man interchange bench and Todd Lowrie was also due to travel. The back-rower has missed the last three matches with a rib injury but Elijah Taylor has been excellent in his place.

Captain Simon Mannering (calf) and prop Russell Packer (sternum) are both expected to play against a high-flying Roosters outfit who have won eight of their last 10 games since beating the Warriors 16-14 at Eden Park in round two.

The Warriors, though, will go into the match with renewed confidence after their own dramatic turnaround and will rate their chances against a side containing the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, James Maloney, Michael Jennings, Mitchell Pearce and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

"We're certainly not fearing the Roosters," Warriors assistant coach Andrew McFadden said. "We've got a bit of confidence under our belts now, so this is a really good time to get them, to have a crack at them."

It would be some achievement if they can. The Roosters have the best defensive record in the NRL this season - they are conceding an average of only 12 points a game - which is more than twice as good as the Warriors' defence.

Roosters v Warriors
Sydney, 8.30pm tomorrow

Roosters: A Minichiello (c), Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, S Kenny-Dowall, R Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Luke O'Donnell, Jake Friend, Martin Kennedy, M Aubusson, SB Williams, Boyd Cordner
Interchange: Daniel Mortimer, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Aidan Guerra, Isaac Liu.

Warriors: Kevin Locke, Glen Fisiiahi, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Russell Packer, Feleti Mateo, S Mannering (c), Elijah Taylor
Interchange: Ben Matulino, Jacob Lillyman, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Dominique Peyroux, Ngani Laumape, Suaia Matagi, Charlie Gubb.

- APNZ

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