Gary Hetherington on Leeds Rhinos recruitment and the difficult salary cap situation facing Rohan Smith

Rohan Smith has worked wonders at Headingley since arriving at May, but the job has only just begun.

Smith managed to guide the Rhinos away from a relegation battle all the way to the Grand Final where they came up short against St Helens, but for Leeds they can’t stop there and pat themselves on the back.

If they want to return to success which had alluded them for five years, the Rhinos need to build on 2022 and a big part of this is recruitment.

Smith has already spoken about stamping his “identity” on the Rhinos over the pre-season, but he faces a tough challenge in assembling the squad he wants.

This comes as Gary Hetherington spoke to the Rhinos YouTube channel about the salary cap.

“I think it’s fair to say that we’re still in a rebuilding phase and that started the day Rohan was appointed as he inherited the staff and the playing group contracted for this season and next season,” Hetherington said, “He’s going to be here long term and needs to formalise the squad he wants. He encapsulates the spirit of Leeds building a squad primarily on home talent that has come through our system and always look to bring players in from other clubs who add value.

“We’ve spent a lot of time spent looking at the squad for next season and the new additions that could come in and the players we want to retain.

“I don’t think we educate the public well enough in our sport and a lot of supporters are confused about how does the salary cap work but the reality is players who progress get paid better year on year and that’s our policy at Leeds.

“We’ve got players who are all on contracts for next year because they’ve earnt that which takes up a portion of your salary cap which means you’re not able to retain the same number of players but at the same time you also want to look at bringing in new players. That can only be achieved if you let some go.

“At the start of the season Rohan was faced with a full spent up salary cap for 2022 but 2023 as well which has required a fair bit of surgery and potential change as well.”

So Smith has never had any room to work within the salary cap and make the squad his own meaning Leeds will face a tough challenge in assembling the squad he wants at Headingley.

It’s a two-year project for Smith and Hetherington to get the squad where they want it to be then. There will be movement before 2023, but more movement is expected ahead of 2024 as they strive to get Leeds consistently challenging again: “It’s a two-year plan we have a lot of senior players into the last year of their contract in 2023. Some players are coming to retirement age. It’s a process of change and we’ve got Rohan at the helm who is making those decisions.

“It’s an emerging Rhinos squad. It’s not going to be complete, it never is. It’s always moving but the nucleus is emerging.

“We’re looking at having a squad that can challenge every season for the foreseeable future.”

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