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Ex-Super League ref hails Leeds Rhinos for “great appointment”

Leeds Rhinos

Former Super League referee Richard Silverwood has praised Leeds Rhinos for the signing of new Sporting Director Ian Blease.

Silverwood’s officiating career spanned 17 years, while he had 15 years in Super League.

In total, he refereed 432 Super League games, as well as three Challenge Cup finals, three World Cup Challenge games and the 2013 World Cup final.

He retired from officiating in 2016 after being suspended by the RFL for a third time.

The former official is very vocal on Twitter, notably when former head of officials Steve Ganson was stood down due to an internal review, criticising IMG gradings and recently bashing the Super League disciplinary process in the 2024 season.

This year, he has criticised Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith, saying in May: “Just don’t see any progress under Rohan Smith. I have no doubt John Cartwright will be a success.

“A high-quality coach. That’s the calibre Leeds should be bringing in rather than a glorified S&C coach.”

Silverwood even went as far as saying: “Gary [Hetherington], please put him out of his misery.”

However, now, he has praised the club for their latest appointment after it has been confirmed that Blease, 59, will join the club and take on official duties from next Monday as their new Sporting Director.

Silverwood hails Leeds Rhinos for “great appointment”

Ian Blease, new Leeds Rhinos sporting director

Credit: Imago Images

The news of Blease’s appointment, now confirmed, was first revealed by Matthew Shaw on X, formerly Twitter, yesterday.

In response to this, Silverwood wrote: “If correct which you normally are Matthew, this is a great appointment for Leeds.

“Knows the game, very smart business man who was an agent so knows a good deal for a player. Some loss for Salford but great move Leeds.”

Blease was previously Salford Red Devils’ Director of Rugby & Operations for seven years, and has now made the move to Headingley.

Salford Red Devils have lost many big names, including Brodie Croft and Andy Ackers to his new employers, but their recruitment and ability to sell players on for fees has been largely praised for the past few years – during Blease’s tenure.

Now, the Rhinos, in an attempt to turn their fortunes around, have made him the club’s new Sporting Director, just a couple of weeks after announcing they were looking for one.

Blease has spoken at his presentation explaining that the Leeds Rhinos job is one that he has “admired from afar” and he now takes on the role, tasked with turning around the club’s fortunes and landing them a first Grand Final victory since 2017.

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