Au Revoir Bro

Quote - Helen Clark, Prime Minister

"We prefer our champions to be humble and modest," Helen Clark said, mentioning Sir Edmund Hillary, Sir Peter Blake, Peter Snell and Sir Murray Halberg. "He's the epitome of a New Zealand champion," she said of Jones.

Quote - Billy Jones, Stacey's father "Every time he's pulled on the Warriors or Kiwi jersey he's made us feel proud - that's our memory."

And so tomorrow night at the place where it all began for Stacey Jones (and those of us lucky enough to see the bloke play) we will gather at Ericsson Stadium to give 'The Little General' the send off he deserves.

He plays his last game on home soil for the club he has given absolutely everything for, The Warriors.

He joined the club in its inaugural year in 95 and has been there, through the good times and bad, ridden the highs and continued to inspire during the lows until tomorrow night.

At 29, with two young girls, the end of a career in the tough NRL competition looming and injuries starting to be a bigger factor, he has decided to go to new club Union Treiziste Catalane in Perpignan, which enters the Super League next season.

A junior from Auckland's Pt Chevalier Pirates club, he went on to represent Auckland through the junior grades and by age 16, as star halfback for the St Paul's College team, was already in the sights of the new Warriors club.

He was still a teenager when he stopped the careers of two great halfbacks, Gary Freeman and Greg Alexander in their respective tracks. Freeman stood aside for him at the 1995 World Cup and Alexander was moved to fullback at the Warriors.

Jones won the Golden Boot award in 2002 for efforts that included taking the club to the minor premiership, scoring for the Warriors in the first half of the grand final against the Roosters .

Opposing players rate him as far stronger than he appears for his 1.7m. His own players know to watch and expect him to go and, when he does, to go with him because tries follow. Jones has always been a family man first and foremost. He's never enjoyed the limelight, taking it as part of the job but finding far more enjoyment in time with his family and fishing holidays at his Far North beach house.

So if there is to be a dry eye at Ericsson tomorrow then it will certainly surprise me, I have been lucky to see some of the games greatest players, The Meningas, Lewis's and Kiwis stars like Filipaina, Mark Graham and Steve Kearney. All great players but not one of them touched me with a sadness that I experience now knowing The Little General will not be playing here again after tomorrow night.

Thanks for putting the game on the map in NZ Stace. Thanks for showing us that you can aspire to and achieve greatness AND keep your feet on the ground. Thanks for the memories mate.

Born May 7, 1976, Auckland

Educated St Paul's College

1.7m, 82kg halfback

34 tests for the Kiwis 1995-2003 for 15 tries

NRL debut v Eels at Parramatta, round 7, April 23, 1995

236 games for the Warriors. 74 tries, 168 goals, 12 field-goals for 644 points. NZRL Player of the Year 1999 and 2002

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