Rohan Smith explains his coaching philosophies at Leeds Rhinos

It could be said that Rohan Smith has performed a miracle at Headingley this year.

When he took over, Leeds were just pulling away from the relegation battle, but now after seven wins in eight games including five on the spin, Leeds are fifth in the table and are well and truly in the play-off race.

Their ascension to fifth in the table came courtesy of a win over Warrington on Friday after which Smith praised Leeds’ defence as he explained why Leeds were able to defeat the Wolves: “I thought we defended our line extremely well for the whole game but I was particularly pleased when the scoreboard got tight and people kept doing their job.

“I’m probably know for focusing on what we can improve on and we will do that but at this time it’s time reflect and enjoy a good defensive performance.

“That roar at the end of the game, it gives me goosebumps thinking about. It summed up the appreciation.

“Our attack was poor, we didn’t have possession and we turned it over too much. The opposition have a lot of quality players.

“They had a lot of possession, it was hard work. It was a critical moment there in the way we defended our tryline for a long period of time.

“Ash Handley passes it to Myler and it half opens up and then we turn it over again and we defend some more. Then Blake Austin goes through on a pass that’s not forward, he caught it behind him. That was another turning point which meant we had to defend some more but I was really pleased with the defensive connection.

“No. We looked connected and cohesive. There’s a growing temperament in the group when the scoreboard or the clock says it’s close, they’re not letting that impact them.”

He also noted the confidence he has in the group as Leeds look to seal a play-off spot in the final three games of the season: “I’ve had confidence in this group since I first did my homework about coming here. I knew there was a lot of talent there. The confidence has grown a little, but I knew the talent and the ability was there.

“It’s matter of getting started again this week, another short turnaround we’ll be saying that a few times in the next few weeks against an extremely hard team to beat.”

He then began to speak about his philosophies as a coach including the lack of pressure he puts on the spine:

“I never put the pressure on the spine for the team to play well, it’s up to the team to play well. We’ll build some combinations as we go but for the next few weeks it’ll be who’s fittest, who’s ready to go on the short turn around and then the shorter turn around and then the slightly longer short turn around.

He also joked about finally allowing himself to be satisfied for a brief spell after the game but he still won’t look at the table: “I have allowed myself to be satisfied for the last 20 minutes about our defence and about how that got us the victory today. The table is still not of interest to me. It’s on to the next game. It’s how you finish.”

He then explained his approach with statistics. He noted that they are of little importance to him and that the win was the main thing: “The only number that matters is a letter. I’m very process orientated but getting the result at the end of the day is what we’re chasing.

“There’s a bunch of numbers that I look at, Warrington had 40 more plays than us in the second half. Possession is irrelevant. We lost the play count significantly last week and still won. The old saying you’ve got to have the ball more than the other team is just not true, it hasn’t been true for a long time.

“You’ve got to find different ways, sometimes it’s not going your way. We collect a lot of numbers and we lean on them when we need to or want to but at the end of the day if you’re complimenting your attack and your defence and you’re in the arm wrestle, then you’re in the game.

“Stats are supportive rather than definitive might be the way of framing it.”

Of course, Smith’s main focus recently has been the desire to win in different ways week to week noting that no team will ever win twice in the same way: “The reality is you’ll never win the same way twice. It’s always going to be a different experience and that’s the fun part of playing so frequently is to create that experience as often as we can. We’re in the battle let’s see what we can come up with at the end.”

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