"Change of heart" triggered Daryl Gibson's resignation decision

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Daryl Gibson says a mid-season "change of heart" triggered his decision to step down as Waratahs coach just four months after announcing a commitment to stay with the team until 2020.

In February, Gibson confirmed he had agreed to take up a second-year option in his new contract but this week he officially ended his time as coach.

Gibson said the evolution of the club's roster, with a host of experienced Wallabies set to head offshore next season, was such that it required fresh blood to take the team forward.

"That was announced in February but that was always a decision to be here for two years," he said.

"I think during the year I had a change of heart around exactly where the team is and where the list is at and with the cycle of players coming through and now it is really visible."

Gibson has been with the Waratahs for seven seasons, three of those as an assistant and four has the team's head coach, and will finish with a record of 28 wins from 43.8 per cent (28 wins from 64 games).

Though Gibson only made the call official this week, the timing of his resignation has raised some questions given it comes only seven weeks after forwards coach Simon Cron signed on to coach Toyota Verblitz in Japan.

Cron was reportedly keen to become head coach of NSW but saw his path blocked by Gibson.

NSW Rugby CEO Andrew Hore said Cron would have been an option to succeed Gibson but they would not pursue him now that he had agreed to coach in Japan.

"He would've gone into the mix, there's no doubt about that but there was no firm assurances there so again we can't work in hypotheticals," he said.

"We've got to work with where we are now and move on."

Simon Cron. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyHore said there were no regrets about deciding re-sign Gibson at the end of the 2018 season despite Cron's departure and the situation the club now finds itself in.

"I think at the end of the day it's just like the players, sometimes you keep the experienced campaigner there and let the younger person come through," he said.

"We felt we were trying to  do our best for the organisation and for the individuals concerned at that time and out of that comes the situation that we're in today, that happens.

"It's not the first or last time a sporting organisation, you've got to flip it over - it's still a wonderful opportunity because we have got systems and structures in place that are developing talent so whoever gets the role is going to have a wonderful opportunity to take things forward."

Hore said the club was yet to create a shortlist of ideal candidates, though he ruled out chasing former Brumbies and Wallabies attack coach Stephen Larkham.

Former Wallabies assistant and current England attack coach Scott Wisemantel is a name that has been thrown around when it comes to overseas-based figures while current assistants Chris Whitaker and Steve Tandy could also be options for NSW.

"We've got a debrief to finish from the season that's been and from that will be learnings and ultimately we've got to work on the characteristics of the person that we want to select and look for," Hore said.

The Waratahs coaching staff and management conducted season reviews this week after a tumultuous 2019 campaign, in which they finished 12th after winning six games and losing ten.

The team were aiming to improve on their semi-final finish in 2018 but lost a sequence of games by small margins, and had to deal with the tornado of Israel Folau’s suspension and termination mid-season.

Both Hore and Gibson were adamant that while the Folau situation was a distraction, it did not trigger Gibson's resignation.

"There's no doubt that all of those things have an effect on a large amount of people in this organisation but I wouldn't directly associate one with the other," Hore said.

Heading into the last game with a mathematical chance at making the finals, the Waratahs were thumped 49-12 by the Highlanders in Invercargill.

Gibson copped criticism for his decision to delay the resting of Wallabies players throughout the year, thus leaving NSW without five of their best players for the last round.

The former All Black centre won a Super Rugby title with the Waratahs in 2014 as backs coach but after taking over from Michael Cheika in 2016, endured some lean seasons.

The team finished 10th in 2016 and 16th in 2017, before turning things around in 2018, winning the Australian conference and progressing to the semi-finals. 

A new national sports psychology plan is being workshopped. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyGibson said he would stay at the club for the handover and has no immediate plans for his next move.

"Next for me? Totally unknown, I don't know what's next but I'm excited about hat opportunity," he said.

"I love coaching, I love being in rugby so there'll be something there.

"I really haven't thought beyond making sure I hand over really well to the next coach. I'll be staying on until the Waratahs find me surplus and I'm really pleased to be able to do that."