After three decades away, New Zealand coach Michael Maguire has returned to the place his first-grade rugby league journey began, returning to the Canberra Raiders as an assistant coach ahead of the 2023 season.

Maguire moved on from his untimely exit at Wests Tigers to guide the Kiwis to the semi-finals of the Rugby League World Cup, and he's feeling refreshed ahead of the new season in familiar surrounds.

“It's ironic to be back 30-odd years after I arrived here,” Maguire told the Daily Telegraph.

“Canberra has always held a special place in my heart and I've always had a great passion for the Raiders. I actually supported Canberra as a kid. Guys like Gary Belcher and Bradley Clyde were my favourite players back then.

“It was the club that gave me my first opportunity.

Maguire made his debut for the Raiders in 1992, but only played one game for the club that year – but injuries continued to prove problematic. Between 1992 and 1996 he played just seven games in first grade.

“I fell out of the club as a player through injury quite early actually. That pulled me up. Mal (Meninga) got me back in to help out as an assistant coach and then with some strength and conditioning work.

“We stayed in touch after I finished and asked that I come back in, help out and stay around the game, which is something that I wanted.

“I learnt my trade and then Matt Elliott came in (as Raiders coach) and asked me to be an assistant coach, full-time.

“(Craig Bellamy) got me down to Melbourne for five years and I was then at Wigan for two seasons. Then there was Souths for six years and the last period at Wests Tigers for three years. It's been a great ride.”

Though he broke through for a premiership in 2014 and has also claimed a Super League title, it hasn't been smooth sailing the whole way – proved as recently as 2022 when he was released by the Tigers during a season that got no better following his departure.

Maguire isn't bitter, but still prefers to not linger on the past.

“I've moved on, there's no point looking back,” Maguire says of his time in Concord.

Ultimately, Maguire is happy to be back around a historic culture that still has a strong link between past glory and present development.

“I tell you what's really noticeable – the recognition of the past greats at the club and how the young ones want to aspire to be like they were.

“The former greats are in and around the club and the old boys are talked about a lot at this club. The young blokes, even the older players, talk about having those old boys being part of the club.

“So as an old boy coming back, it's actually really enjoyable.

“I just want to help ‘Sticky' (Stuart) and for the club to be the best they can be.

“It's an exciting group, they have a lot of good youth coming through and some exciting young backs. Then you've got a sprinkling of the older guys up front who steer the ship. It's a good blend.

“There are exciting times but there's lots of work to do.”