When Leeds Rhinos appointed Rohan Smith mid way through the season, it was met with some derision from opposition fans with Smith arriving as a relative unknown.
At this stage Leeds had only won three games and were fearing relegation. However, 18 games later, 13 wins later, Smith will be leading his side out at Old Trafford in the Grand Final knowing that win 14 will see him forever edge his name into history.
Understandably emotional, yet still somehow stoic, Smith opened up about his feelings after the game: “Personally I didn’t really know what to say, or feel other than really proud and privileged to be a part of it. Now that the dust settles, I’m starting to think about next week a bit.”
However, he was keen to put the focus on his players noting that the journey started in pre-season: “A whole heap of hard work since last November. That’s what it comes down to an accumulation since training started. Some blokes have been preparing for that moment their whole career or life.
“They’ve been connected as a group over the last few months, that’s what kept us in there.”
The Leeds boss also revealed who he was on the phone to at the end of the game which was caught by Sky Sports cameras: “I called my wife. I’ve got three kids, so they stayed at home in the comfort of the lounge. I just wanted to share it with her, without her support I’m not here right now. We’re a team.”
On reflection, Smith noted just how pleased he has been to be accepted by the Rhinos fans, 4000 of which were in attendance making up 33% of the overall attendance on the night: “That was a special moment out there. The way the fans have shown me respect and most of them wouldn’t have had a clue who I was other than Tony’s nephew or Brian’s son. They’ve taken me in and given me a shot at it. So I respect that a lot. It’s a special moment.”
He mentioned newly appointed Hull FC boss Tony Smith there, his uncle, who won two Grand Finals as Leeds boss, as well as his father Brian who is also a well regarded coach.
Smith was asked if he’d call them asking for advice, to which he said: “I don’t know. They’ve obviously been there and done that. I’m pretty confident in what we’re doing as a group so I don’t think I need to be different from myself, certainly not going to try and ask the players to be any different. It’s just another game. A very special one.”
Smith does know how to win a Grand Final delivering the Premiership to Norths Devils last year. His former side are in a Grand Final of their own chasing back-to-back titles.