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Matt Prior says Leeds Rhinos have “no real right” to be in Grand Final as he explains Rohan Smith impact and fear of relegation

Matt Prior confirmed this week that this is in fact his penultimate season with the prop set to retire at the end of 2023 meaning Saturday’s Grand Final could very well be his last chance to win one.

However, for a long time it looked unlikely that Prior would be walking out at Old Trafford in 2022 when Leeds were second bottom in April with just one win under their belt, however for the prop this has made it special with him admitting the Rhinos “probably have no real right” to be at the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday.

“I think this year after the way we started, it makes it a bit more special,” Prior said, “We never gave up and we probably have no real right to be here the way we started to be here and what we’ve been through, I think that makes it more special and it means a lot.

“We were taking it week by week, at a stage there was almost a chance of us getting relegated we were second bottom and had a lot of work in front of us. We’ve taken it week by week, so it probably wasn’t something we were expecting.

“The way this year has been, I haven’t thought about it too much. I’m still pinching myself that we’re in a Grand Final. We’ve just taken it one week at a time.”

Of course one man has changed a lot at Headingley in 2022 and that man is coach Rohan Smith.

Prior explained the changes he has made since arriving at Leeds mid-season: “At that stage we were just thinking we need to win some games so we don’t get relegated. We took it one game at a time and started knocking them off. Rohan’s made a real change.

“I think it’s Rohan, he’s got a relaxed attitude. Before Rohan we would bicker a bit on the field if things weren’t perfect, there’s no more bickering on the field and we just take it moment by moment.

“Rohan has brought a sense of calmness to us as a group, it’s just one more set. No matter how many tackles we have to make, we’re going to turn them away.

“I think there’s no real right or wrong, as long as you play the ball it’s a winning play, that’s something he says a lot. Everyone has that mindset so there’s no bickering, it’s all about getting on with your job.”

He also praised interim Head Coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan for the changes he made when he took over from Richard Agar noting that the Rhinos are now all pulling in the same direction: “I think Jonesy did a great job stepping in, he did a lot of things that started to bond us and Rohan came in and kept the ball rolling and ever since Rohan has been here it’s been a great environment. It’s a team first mentality everyone is working for the team. Over time we’ve come together as a group.”

In terms of where Smith ranks in Prior’s favourite coaches, he said: “I think he’s great, he’s right up there with the best coaches I’ve had. What he’s done in such a short amount of time shows he’s got a huge future. He’s definitely right up there.”

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