Darren Coleman says he'll use the lessons instilled in him by his late father as he sets about turning around NSW Waratahs, the creed that you "earn your beer" set to ring true around the team as it starts its climb up from the horror show that was this year's Super Rugby season.
Coleman was officially unveiled as the Waratahs coach on a three-year deal on Thursday, completing the full circle in a career that began as a NSW Rugby development officer and has since taken him across a number of Shute Shield clubs, to the Brumbies, Japan, and most recently, the United States, and now into a role he says has always been his dream job.
Speaking to media from a private box at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where he was watching Game 6 of the NBA's Western Conference Finals, an emotional Coleman reflected on his 25-year journey to the top job in New South Wales Rugby, mapped out his plans for the franchise and explained why he is now better prepared for a role he was overlooked for in 2019.
At the forefront of his mind this week has been his late father, Greg, whose lessons he will bring to Sydney and impart on a Waratahs squad whose confidence is shot and detractors are many.
"My biggest mentor was my dad. My dad was an old-school rugby league guy, he left Western Sydney as a Penrith Panther player and went and captain-coached an all-Indigenous club in Kempsey," Coleman said. "So I grew up in a school that was mostly full of Indigenous kids, I played all my football with Indigenous kids, and my dad was just a salt-of-the-earth man who gave his time to people whether it be with rugby or the surf club.
"His biggest saying was 'earn your beer'. Whatever your sport or your creed was, we trained hard. I've got four brothers and we were all big into our footy, and our surf club, cricket, swimming, all those sports that you did, and we all left with really good ethic. And the interesting thing with my brothers is that we're all football coaches now, all at varying levels. I've got one brother who coaches the Hunter team in the Shute Shield, I've got another brother that coaches a rugby league club out in Forbes and another who coaches our hometown rugby league team in South West Rocks.
"So there was something in the water or something that he instilled in us that we love giving back and coaching...he'd be looking down right now, he'd be real proud."
Coleman had long appeared to be the frontrunner for the Waratahs role left open since the sacking of Rob Penney midway through the Super Rugby AU season, particularly once former NSW assistant Simon Cron had confirmed he would be staying in Japan.
Having been overlooked for the role in favour of Penney in 2019, Coleman was asked whether he had thought about not applying this time around, particularly given multiple reports he was upset at missing out two years ago.
But he rejected those suggestions, saying the disappointment had only further motivated him for the challenge of turning Gordon around in the Shute Shield, which concluded with a premiership two years into a three-year plan last year. He then took on the mission of building a third club from the ground up -- having done so with both the Central Coast Rays [ARC] and NSW Country Eagles [NRC] -- this time in the States with LA Giltinis.
Success with former cellar-dwellers Gordon and working with former Wallabies stars Matt Giteau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dave Dennis, have Coleman more prepared than the man who threw his hat in the ring for the Waratahs job two years earlier.
An intimate and long-standing connection with the Shute Shield is potentially Coleman's greatest asset, both on and off the field, as NSW Rugby looks to reconnect with a rugby community that has bemoaned a lengthy list of the governing body's recent decisions, alienated the grassroots and seen multiple Super Rugby-quality players either lost to other Australian franchises or to overseas clubs.
"I'd like to think the common folk, or the grassroots people out there, will have a connection with me because I didn't go to a private school, I didn't even play rugby at high school, I was a leaguie and I sort of jumped on late," Coleman said. "I didn't come through all the traditional pathways as a player or a coach, so I'd like to think that people sort of warm to that friendliness or that knockabout nature.
"I'm from humble beginnings and I'll always stay humble, and I'll always appreciate people and respect their time. I've loved some of the people that I've met at the different Shute Shield clubs, some of the gear stewards and strappers and all those people who are just salt-of-the-earth rugby people that love being a part of something.
"And the number of messages I've got [this week], a lot of people have said 'we're back on board with the Tahs' and obviously they're close friends of mine so that's why I'm getting that feel or that vibe. But I'm really excited, I've got visions of us being in that brand-new stadium and the place full and going off and the people passionately cheering on, and all those bars around Moore Park filling up with people before and after games. I guess that's my vision and what I'm pushing towards."
Coleman will until mid-August remain in Los Angeles, where he hopes of adding the Major League Rugby title to his Shute Shield premierships of 2017 and 2020, but he says the conversations with Waratahs chief executive Paul Doorn and other key staff are already underway.
Coleman is racing the clock in terms of recruitment for next season but he believes there is the nucleus of a good team at the Waratahs, one that however will need to be nurtured and supported after a record-breaking 0-13 season.
Coleman did agree that the positions Penney originally flagged for recruitment, but was unable to fill because of salary cap restrictions, at least in part, again remained a focus.
But the former Gordon and Warringah boss is confident he won't have to go too far afield to find some willing troops, saying his ability to uncover some "rough diamonds" in the Shute Shield ranks was one of the keys to his coaching arsenal.
"There's a little bit of recruitment to be done, but a good portion of the squad is already locked in and the majority of that squad are young players and they're going to be better for the experiences and the hardships they went through this year," he said.
"So a big segment of my role will be around nurturing and rebuilding those guys' confidence and getting them back on track. And obviously my in-depth knowledge of Sydney and Australian rugby, there's potentially some rough diamonds that haven't been uncovered, and I'll get on to figuring out if they fit in with where we're at."
All in all, the message will be simple for the NSW players already under contract or those from outside the club who suddenly might have had their interest tweaked by Coleman's arrival.
"I think I can galvanise the group to become mentally stronger, there [are] not so much tricks but some ploys you can invest in that will get guys competing and competing to win. Yeah, talent's important, but there's a lot of talent in that roster already, obviously a bit of it is underdeveloped.
"But if there's one trait, if you're going to be playing for the Waratahs next year under me, you've got to have a 'no quit' attitude. You've got to be a positive guy, you've got to want to have fun and bounce into work with a smile on your face and want to invest and be emotional about the team and what we're doing.
"And if you do those things, you'll get on well with me and that'll benefit the team."