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The contenders to be Leeds Rhinos new Sporting Director

Former player, Jamie Peacock, and former head coach, Tony Smith, are in the running to be Leeds Rhinos Sporting Director.

Leeds Rhinos are set for the biggest off-field restructuring in several years, with the club set to appoint a new Sporting Director. Leeds have been without one since Kevin Sinfield left the role in 2021. 

Speaking upon the announcement of the vacancy, Leeds Chief Executive, Gary Hetherington, described what the club is looking for in a candidate. He stated the right person should have “extensive experience in sport to lead our plan to build a culture of excellence, innovation and learning to support performance and development and someone who can make a difference”.

Leeds hope to have completed their search for a new Sporting Director by June of this year. With the men’s side currently struggling to meet expectations in Super League. The appointment cannot come soon enough.

With their search underway, we take a look at some of the potential candidates for the role.

Super League Quiz: Name the clubs these 10 players have not played for

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Josh Charnley

Kevin Sinfield

Kevin Sinfield

Credit: Imago Images

As soon as the Leeds Sporting Director’s role was announced, rumours began to swirl that Leeds legend, Kevin Sinfield, was in the running for the job. Sky Sports pundit, Jon Wilkin, was quick to mention Sinfied on Sky Sports’ The Verdict, and his name continues to be touted. Sinfield was the previous occupant of the position.

However a combination of the changes at the club due to the COVID-19 crisis and an offer to join Rugby Union side,  Leicester Tigers, as defence coach. Sinfield followed former Leicester Tigers head coach, Steve Borthwick, to England’s national side and was part of the coaching staff for their World Cup campaign.

He will leave England following this summer’s tour to Japan, and is yet to announce what the future holds He has been linked with other jobs in Union, which may be attractive alternatives.. Could an emotional return to Headingley be on the cards?

Tony Smith

Tony Smith in a press conference.

Credit: Imago Images

Tony Smith has had a difficult few years, since leaving Hull KR at the end of the 2022 season. He spent an unsuccessful 18 months in charge of city rivals, Hull FC. He left earlier this season having secured just one win, and with the Black and Whites turning in a run of disastrous performances.

However, Smith has a vast amount of experience in Rugby League and a long connection with the Rhinos. When nephew, Rohan Smith, was appointed as head coach of the Rhinos, there was some speculation that Tony may go into a Director of Rugby role to support him. Rhinos CEO, Gary Hetherington, spoke of wanting someone with a depth of expertise and expreience to take on the role. Smith certainly fits that bill.

Jamie Peacock

Leeds Rhinos

Credit: Imago Images

Another Leeds legend who has been linked with the role is ex-Great Britain captain, Jamie Peacock. Peacock was an inspirational leader on the pitch, and an essential part of Leeds’ most successful era, after joining the club from Bradford Bulls ahead of the 2006 season.

Since retirement, Peacock has juggled a number of commitments, including punditry, a motivational speaking business and a role with the Leeds Rhinos commercial team. Given the role combines both strategic and on-field planning, Peacock’s off field experience in business may give him a unique combination of skills to take on the role.

He would be a popular appointment with the fans, given his links with the club. However, he does not have the direct experience of other candidates.

Ian Blease

Salford Red Devils

Credit: Imago Images

To make it clear from the outset, there is yet to be any suggestion that Ian Blease is interested in the role. However, if the Rhinos were looking for best in class in the role, they should look no further than Salford Red Devils’ Managing Director, Ian Blease.

Blease has overseen a period of off-the-field turmoil at the Red Devils since joining the club in 2016. During that time he has overseen the development of the club from one in near constant danger of relegation, to one which is consistently in the mix for the play-offs.

This year has showcased Blease at his best. Salford were expected to struggle this season, with the club losing star players such as Andy Ackers and Brodie Croft. In the face of severe financial constraints, Blease has helped to build a competitive squad thanks to some outstanding recruitment and retention.

Salford do all of the things that the Rhinos currently struggle with well. They are able to find rough diamonds and improve them, as well as retaining their best talent. If the Leeds Rhinos are unwilling or unable to tempt Blease away from Salford, they should be looking for someone with the qualities he possesses.

Laurent Frayssinous

Credit: Imago Images

Laurent Frayssinous is a name from left-field, however, he is someone with know how and experience from years in Rugby League. Frayssinous is currently an assistant coach at St Helens, and the French national team coach, having also coached the Catalans Dragons from 2013 to 2017.

At the Dragons, he was part of a culture of growth and development, as the side attempted to grow the game in France. He oversaw the introduction of several French stars into the Catalans first team during his time in charge.

Frayssinous was once a familiar face at Headingley, as he spent time with the club in 2018, shadowing their coaching staff as part of his development. Through his work with Les Dracs and St Helens, he has first-hand experience of working in top class sporting organisations, and can bring those lessons to the Rhinos.

His contract with the Saints is due to expire at the end of the season. If he decides that his next role lies away from coaching, he could be a strong candidate to oversee the rebuild at Leeds Rhinos.

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