Rohan Smith linked up with Leeds Rhinos and took over at Headingley after a poor start to the season under Richard Agar and all looked quite worrying for the talented young coach, tipped as a ‘prodigy’ by some, when Rhinos lost in his first game to Salford Red Devils.
Since that performance though Smith has truly engrained himself into the culture at Leeds and took the Headingley side all the way to the playoffs, completely flipping their season on it’s head and earning huge plaudits along the way.
Now in his first full year with the club and having a chance to orchestrate a pre-season and a recruitment window as he wants to, Rhinos are tipped by plenty to build on the success of 2022.
One man who had somewhat of an uncertain spell under Smith was Rhinos’ skipper Kruise Leeming with the hooker finding himself benched at times during the season, and with Smith having failed to confirm his status as captain for 2023.
Despite that Leeming did lead out Leeds in their Boxing Day friendly against Wakefield and he has since spoken to The Sportsman about the qualities that Smith possesses.
“He’s come in and been fantastic for us, he’s bought into the way that Leeds Rhinos play. I feel like coaches have in before with different philosophies, which is fine, but they’re not properly captured the way that Leeds Rhinos are as a team and how they play.
“It’d be unfair for them to come in and try and do that (change their coaching style to Leed’s playing style), whereas I think it runs through Rohan’s blood the way that he wants to play.
“He loves this new and refreshing spectacle of rugby, he doesn’t just want to play and win but put on a spectacle for the fans and that’s what Leeds Rhinos have done for years and they’ve been known for.
“It’s not like he’s had to come in and alter his beliefs and the way he coaches to suit Leeds Rhinos, he just suits Leeds Rhinos.”
Leeming was clearly full of praise for his boss and the board must trust Smith given a recruitment drive focusing on players that he wants such as Nene Macdonald, who he worked with back in Australia, and then a blend of youth and experience.
The likes of Macdonald, Sam Lisone and Derrell Olpherts offer plenty of experience whilst Justin Sangare, James McDonnell and Leon Ruan all bring plenty of youth.
Rhinos are certainly in for an exciting season and the next chance fans will have to see Leeming and Smith will be on Saturday when they travel to Leigh to compete for the Bev Risman Trophy.