The Counties Manukau Rugby Union is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of global rugby icon and our ambassador Phil Kingsley Jones.
The proud Welshman, who was a dynamic and gifted performer and former manager of rugby legend Jonah Lomu, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, September 15 after battling ill health.
The 72-year-old icon of Counties rugby grew up in the Valleys of Wales and moved to New Zealand in 1983. His colourful character and ability to connect with people, make them laugh and feel valued will be greatly missed by the Counties Manukau Rugby community.
The man whose main passion in life was his family, with people, rugby and music not far behind was made an ambassador of the Provincial Union he loved so much in 2017. To honour the tireless work he put into the CMRFU, the Union fittingly named the corporate lounge that he entertained thousands of people after him at Navigation Homes Stadium upon his retirement from the organisation.
Phil was an integral part of the revival of Counties Rugby which saw the Steelers’ success lead them to win the Championship and their historic Ranfurly Shield victory in 2013.
Former Steelers and Maori captain Errol Brain who knew Phil closely said: “This is a truly sad day for Counties Manukau and rugby.
“Phil would be one of the only people who could walk into any rugby club in the world and know someone who would want to buy him a beer. His larger than life personality, sharp brain and ability to think outside the square was a great gift.
“What he did for Jonah Lomu was ground-breaking. He was the pioneer who turned Jonah into rugby’s first global superstar all while keeping him grounded and connected to what was important, which was our region. Such was the impact that many of the young ones coming through today still look up to him and are aware of Jonah’s legacy.”
Phil Kingsley Jones worked for Counties Manukau Rugby for 15 years over two periods. The first stanza was from 1989–1996 and the second spell began in 2009 until 2017. During that time, he fulfilled many roles at the Union including coaching co-ordinator, coaching director, coach of the development team, coach of junior representative teams including the Counties U16’s who beat Australia, sponsorship and new Business Development Manager. He also coached the Tongan national team, taking them on two tours to South Africa and the United Kingdom, which helped them qualify for the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
Phil Kinglsey Jones was also a player agent and even though he is best known for managing and mentoring the world’s biggest rugby star and Counties Manukau legend Jonah Lomu, he fostered many of the careers of the Counties Manukau Steelers through many decades, becoming close friends with them.
Known as an award-winning entertainer and comedian, Phil performed at the London Palladium, appeared on the UK talent show New Faces and was the MC at Butlins. He also worked all around the world showcasing his outstanding wit including shows featuring his close friends and legends of rugby, the late Sir Colin Meads, Sir Bryan Williams and Buck Shelford.
Counties Manukau Rugby CEO Aaron Lawton said the Union had lost a true icon.
“Phil truly loved this Union and we loved him right back,” Lawton said.
“Even during the last fortnight when his health was deteriorating, he was working the phones like the good old days to try and land us new sponsors.
“We are really devastated by the loss of such a huge character and our condolences go out to his family and friends.
“The Steelers will be honouring a true legend when they take the field on Sunday against Hawke’s Bay in Napier.”
Phil is survived by his wife Verina, his three children - Kingsley, Vikki, Rhianon and their partners, his stepson James and his ten grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
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