MELBOURNE: The New South Wales Waratahs have appointed Darren Coleman as head coach on a three-year deal after slumping to their worst-ever season in 2021.
Coleman, coach of U.S. Major League Rugby side LA Giltinis, replaces Waratahs' interim coaches Jason Gilmore and Chris Whitaker, who were unable to arrest the Super Rugby team's slide following the sacking of Rob Penney in March.
"I’m passionate about the opportunity to coach the Waratahs. I’m coming home to what I regard as my dream job, one I’ve been preparing for over many years," he said in a team release on Thursday.
Though based in Australia's most well-resourced rugby state, the 2014 champions Waratahs have suffered an exodus of experienced players in recent years while also failing to bring in quality recruits.
The result was 13 consecutive losses in a winless season in 2021 after finishing fourth in the five-team Super Rugby AU last year.
While Australia's other Super Rugby teams spent to the limit of their salary caps in 2020, the Waratahs' management controversially saved AUS$1 million (US$750,000) in player payments to shore up their financial position amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coleman, a career coach with a background in New South Wales (NSW) state, is certain to be given a freer rein to spend on recruiting and retention for a team seen as a barometer of the strength of Australian rugby.
Though highly regarded in NSW and recruited after a "global ... extensive search and consultation process", Coleman never played at elite level or held a head coaching role at a major professional franchise.
He brings a modest CV featuring success at amateur and lower tier state competitions, including Sydney's top club league, the Shute Shield.
"He's had success with the Shute Shield clubs in Sydney and he knows the bush and he knows the players and he can draw on the experience gained at overseas clubs, to bring success to the Waratahs," Waratahs CEO Paul Doorn said.
(US$1 = 1.3349 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)