Leeds Rhinos boss Rohan Smith on Championship signings and Blake Austin

Leeds Rhinos have been active in the transfer market in Super League for the past few months.

New head coach Rohan Smith has already brought in Justin Sangare from Toulouse Olympique and Wigan Warriors’ James McDonnell for 2023, but more signings are said to be on the horizon including Castleford Tigers winger Derrell Olpherts and Batley Bulldogs’ Luke Hooley.

And, for Smith, the Championship is a gold mine for players that could make it in the Super League.

“I think it is a good way to manage your salary cap and the succession plan in bringing in players on the fringes,” Smith said.

“There is a difference between and every day Super League player and a squad player, but a lot of players in the Championship could be good Super League squad players.”

The Leeds head coach also believes that players develop at a different pace and that you only have to look at the NRL to see how late bloomers some stars are.

“It takes time to develop, the NRL shows that. A bunch of players in the last few years have debuted at 27, Jonathan Reuben – who played for me at the Norths Devils – made his debut for the (St George Illawarra) Dragons aged 29.

“(Makahesi) Makatoa at Parramatta made his debut at 28. Some people take longer to develop than others.

“The similarities to the NRL and Queensland Cup is there are bunch of players that aren’t contracted to NRL teams but they are very similar in ability that are in the extended NRL squad.”

In terms of Leeds recruitment, the club is of course constrained by the salary cap which has been the main reason for the departure of stalwart Liam Sutcliffe.

“It’s a difficult one. Professional sport is a salary cap driven that we are in. There is a lot to it and theres an opportunity for Sutty (Liam Sutcliffe) to secure his long-term future.

“He’s done the club well and it’s one of those that happens in professional sport.”

The Rhinos go up against Hull KR tomorrow night live on Sky Sports, but Smith is unsure whether or not halfback Blake Austin will play.

“Those who are available will be playing. I need to weigh up with what we do with Blake Austin and whether he is ready to play,” Smith continued.

“We are still stewing that one over, but he has trained well the last few days, but as a coach I’m always conscious about the longer term picture.

“I need to stew on that one a little bit longer.”

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