HAYDEN Pedersen has played under renowned international coaches Robbie Deans and Gordon Tietjens and competed in some of the premier competitions in world rugby.
The former New Zealand Maoris representative plans to draw on those experiences in his first venture as a player-coach at The Waratahs.
Pedersen was named yesterday as the replacement for fellow Kiwi Greg Doolan, who has crossed the tracks to guide Easts in their anticipated return to Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union's premier competition next season.
The 30-year-old outside-centre joined the Tahs in July 2010 and has established himself as one of the best backs in the competition.
He moved to Tamworth midway through this campaign, and though travelling each weekend to play he was hindered by a hamstring problem.
But he and fiancee Lisa Crook, who will marry next month, have returned to Newcastle, and Pedersen is looking forward to the next stage of his career.
"I have done work with the backs at clubs overseas but this is my first full-on coaching role," he said.
"It will be different, but it's a challenge I'm looking forward to. I will have other people involved.
"I am certainly looking at bringing in a co-coach to work with the forwards."
Pedersen was a member of the Junior All Blacks team who won the under-21 World Cup in 2003, played for Otago in the New Zealand National Provincial Championships and had a season with the Canterbury Crusaders. He also spent two years in Italy.
"I have played under some high-quality coaches and picked up a lot of things," Pedersen said.
"From what I have seen in my time at The Waratahs there is a lot of potential here.
"There are a few positions we need to fill, essentially in the tight five.
"We are not looking for a lot of players. Maybe two or three. Once we determine the positions we need to fill I will put a few feelers out and see who is around."
Pedersen is confident most of the present squad, which finished seventh and was boosted by the mid-season arrival of a host of overseas players, will stay.
Former NSW Country prop Luke Troy has indicated he will return.
"I have had a talk with [Tongan breakaway] Pep Kolomatangi," Pedersen said.
"He has some stuff to sort out in New Zealand but is keen to come back with family. I'm pretty sure the other foreign boys who came over are staying on.
"We have some good young players coming through, like Dylan Heins, and all things going well, I'm confident we will do all right."
Pedersen will start pre-season training in November.
"I want to get the guys fit and create a good atmosphere," he said
"I was working Tuesdays and Thursdays and didn't train much.
"I'm looking forward to doing a full pre-season training myself.
"This season we played well for 50 or 60 minutes and got blown off the park the last 20 minutes.
"If we could have played for 80 minutes we would have went all right against a few of the top sides."
There have not been many player-coaches in recent years in the NHRU, but Tahs committeeman Jim Heins said Pedersen had the attributes to be a success.
"He has a wealth of knowledge and has a lot of good contacts, which we are going to utilise, and he is keen to have a crack," he said.
"We'd be silly not to let him have a go.
"Scott Coleman started as a player coach and look where Hamilton are now.
"There will be challenges, we know that, but we are going to sit down with Hayden and build a team of support around him to help."