Rugby-Tasked with Waratahs turnaround, Coleman plans to earn his beer

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) -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.

The Waratahs job is Coleman's first as head coach of a major professional team and he brings a modest CV featuring success at amateur and lower tier competitions.

However, he is well regarded in New South Wales state after turning underperforming teams into champions in Sydney's top club competition, the Shute Shield.

Coleman said he lives by his father's philosophy of enjoying the rewards of hard work.

"One of his big sayings was to earn your beer. Once you’ve done a hard day’s work, you’ve trained hard and performed well, it was time to relax and celebrate and build good bonds,” the 48-year-old told reporters on Thursday.

"He would be pretty proud to see that I’ve stuck with it and got it here now."

Though based in Australia's most well-resourced rugby state, the 2014 champions Waratahs have suffered an exodus of experienced players to other teams 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 A$1 million ($750,000) in player payments to shore up their financial position amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coleman 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.

However, he poured cold water on fans' hopes of a quick fix for the Sydney cellar-dwellers.

"It’s not all going to be strawberries and roses in year one," said Coleman, who was beaten by Penney for the Waratahs job nearly two years ago.

"There’s going to be hard days and I know that. I think I can galvanise the group to become mentally stronger."

($1 = 1.3349 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Edwina Gibbs)

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