New Leeds Rhinos Head Coach Rohan Smith has been cleared to travel to the UK to join up with the club and is set to arrive at Headingley Stadium next Tuesday, 3rd May.
Smith took charge of his final game with Norths Devils last weekend and was given an emotional farewell as they scored in the last 90 seconds to defeat Ipswich Jets 36-32 in their Hostplus Cup match.
His side trailed 30-32 in the final minutes before a late try from co-captain Michael Sio ensured Smith finished his four seasons at the club a winner. The game was particularly noteworthy as the team was made up completely of Norths contracted players, as it was last year when they won the Queensland Cup Grand Final. Affiliate players from NRL side Brisbane Broncos were unavailable so the full 17 were players that Smith has worked with and nurtured during his time at Norths.
Across the first five rounds, only seven out of the 85 combined places in the Devils teams have been taken by Broncos-contracted players, placing importance on the core of players Smith has brought together.
The Devils showed their feelings for their coach with a haka on the field after the match.
An emotional Smith thanked his players after completing a tenure that delivered 49 wins from 73 matches – including 23 from his last 26 games – and a treasured 2021 premiership to Bishop Park.
“It’s been a privilege to have worked with the people I have over these years,” Smith said.
“Tonight wasn’t about me. Full credit to Ipswich because they played hard and fully tested us.”
Devils president Michael Crutcher said, “We are rapt for him and delighted that his work at the Devils has been recognised with an appointment of this nature.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Rohan and his family and an exciting time for Leeds. Rohan was signed by Norths for the 2018 season and his work here has been outstanding. He built a squad that went from outsiders to premiers in the space of three full seasons in a highly competitive league.”
“We are fortunate that Rohan leaves behind a very strong structure with excellent coaching staff,” Devils CEO Troy Rovelli said.
“And we have a strong group of players led by our co-captains Jack Ahearn and Michael Sio. Jack and Mikey were the first two players signed by Rohan when he joined Norths so it’s fitting that they will help to carry on a culture that has developed so well in recent years.
“Our goals as a club don’t change and our standards will not change. Devils fans will continue to see a team that plays high-energy football and plays for each other.
“We thank Rohan for his service. This is exciting news for him and for our club, which is truly a pathway to the highest level for players and coaches. Performances here are noted across the rugby league world.
“We look forward to Rohan’s career and the continued success of the Devils.”
Smith was named the competition’s coach of the year in 2021 before guiding Norths to a grand final win.
“Our club has a storied list of premiership coaches over our 90 years. They include Bob Bax, Clive Churchill, Graham Lowe, Mark Murray and now Rohan Smith. Rohan belongs in that company,” Crutcher said.
“We’re grateful for the system he has built here and we look forward to what comes next for Norths and for Rohan.”
Smith thanked the Devils for the last five seasons, relishing the head-coaching role.
“It’s been a great experience at an historic club and I’m very grateful for the opportunity and for everyone who has been involved over recent seasons,” Smith said.
“One of the best things about rugby league is the relationships you build with players and other coaches. Our family has made friendships here that we will carry forever. And I know that the players remained focused on what’s to come in 2022. They have an exciting season ahead and I wish them the very best.”