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'I see poor leadership': Have Darren Coleman's NSW Rugby bosses set him up to fail?

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26th March, 2024
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NSW Rugby has forced their coach Darren Coleman into a corner to the detriment of the team by putting him on notice over his Super Rugby future.

That’s the assessment of former Wallaby Matt To’omu who said he has “a bee in my bonnet” about how Coleman has been treated and accused the coach’s bosses of “poor leadership.”

At the start of the season NSW Rugby sources backgrounded that Coleman had four weeks to prove he deserved a contract for next season.

His future has become a major talking point again following the gutting 39-36 loss in Fiji last weekend – which follows back-to-back two-point losses to Kiwi opposition that have left the Tahs with a 1-4 record.

To’omua, a co-host of The Roar Rugby Podcast, said the pressure being exerted on Coleman by his employers was making matters worse.

The Roar Rugby Podcast hosts Matt To’omua and Christy Doran are joined by Brumbies backrower Luke Reimer. Listen in the player below or in your podcast app of choice

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To’ouma focussed on the decision by Coleman to run key starters for 88 minutes in energy sapping conditions in Fiji, with a must-win game against the Rebels on a six-day turnaround.

He said Coleman’s precarious hold on his job was clearly affecting his selections.

“The Waratahs, they’re in a tough spot at the moment (and) I have a bee in my bonnet about this,” To’omua said of the situation engulfing Coleman.

“I look at that game on the weekend, and if you’re planning your season out, you’ve got some really tough games early on, two Kiwi teams back-to-back, then you go to Fiji, and then you’ve got a six-day turnaround coming back here in a must-win against Melbourne on Friday.

“In terms of planning and seeing the bigger picture, do you really want your top 15 guys going into Fiji, playing 90 minutes, completely drained, then a six-day turnaround, flying back to win a game that you must win?

“Is it because Coleman’s under pressure to get that contract? Is he constantly selecting his top 15 and not looking further because he has that pressure, or is it a bit of inexperience?

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“I don’t know, but I just feel like the Waratahs are in a much worse position now, having lost that game, having exhausted a large chunk of the starting 15, and now they’ve got to come back on a six-day turnaround against a Rebels team at home like that. For me, it’s frustrating.”

To’omua said the players will try to back up but it would be hard to do so considering the “extremely taxing” conditions.”

The former Wallaby said NSW Rugby rather than the coach was most at fault.

“I look at that and I see poor leadership from New South Wales Rugby in terms of having a coach sing for his supper.

Tane Edmed of the NSW Waratahs passes the ball during the round five Super Rugby Pacific match between Fijian Drua and NSW Waratahs at Churchill Park, on March 23, 2024, in Lautoka, Fiji. (Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

Tane Edmed of the NSW Waratahs passes the ball during the round five Super Rugby Pacific match between Fijian Drua and NSW Waratahs at Churchill Park, on March 23, 2024, in Lautoka, Fiji. (Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

“Darren Coleman’s a fighter. He’s trying to do his best. He’s getting his players to do his best.

But, you know, would he have been better served having a few blokes rested or coming off the bench knowing that there’s a six-day turnaround?

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“It’s of no disrespect to the opposition or even to the blue jersey. It’s just an understanding from a planning point of view that you’ve got a long season ahead.

“You’ve got some games that you really must win if you want to make those finals. And, you know, Fiji in Fiji is a very tough game. Like that’s an extremely hard game to win when you’re at your best.

“Do you, you know, pull three or four guys to kind of sit at home and get ready for the next week, send some guys there, get some valuable minutes into them, and then really go to the next game?

“I feel like it’s something we don’t do that great in Australia. Super Rugby’s always been such a short competition that we kind of just go all guns a-blazing. But you’re seeing teams now understand that depth is really important.

“Do you give [players] minutes because they deserve it, or do you give them minutes so they can grow? I I don’t feel the Waratahs have done that.”

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He said the Tahs squad “looks a little bit skinny at the moment.

“And it might have been a missed opportunity to kind of grow a bit of depth on the weekend.

“It starts from the top. And when you’re putting week-to-week pressure on a coach to get a new contract or to, sing for his supper, he’s not able to have this long-term kind of view. He’s looking week-to-week, and you can’t blame him for wanting Jake Gordon on in the crucial minutes of the game.

“You can’t blame him. However, for me, it’s a lack of leadership from up higher in the sense that we’re making someone so insecure about his position that he feels like he has to fight, and I just feel like we’re chasing our tail a little bit.”

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