Rohan Smith explanation behind surprise captaincy decision

Since the retirement of Kevin Sinfield in 2015 as a treble winner, Leeds Rhinos have averaged a captain every season.

In 2016 and 2017 Danny McGuire was skipper but as he missed the majority of 2016, the role was mostly Rob Burrow’s.

In 2018, it was Kallum Watkins who took on the role prior to his departure mid way through 2019 as Trent Merrin took on the captaincy until the end of the season.

Going into 2020, Stevie Ward was skipper but his time as captain lasted one game after a concussion against Hull FC ultimately ended his career and saw Luke Gale take on the role until mid 2021 when he was stripped of the captaincy with Matt Prior taking on the role.

Not a lover of the captaincy, he was replaced by Kruise Leeming in 2022. This came after he was their star man in 2021 and made the Super League Dream Team.

But the hooker became more of a bench player at the end of last year with Jarrod O’Connor starting ahead of him leading to speculation that he could lose the captaincy in 2023.

Speaking over Christmas, Rohan Smith revealed that there had been no decision on the captaincy yet:

“No I haven’t. There will be no strict process on that. That announcement or that role will be sorted in time.

“It’s not something that is pressing at this role in time. Everyone is using pre-season to get themselves ready, get themselves prepared and I’m still understanding individuals and how the group interact.

“There’s nothing imminent there.”

After their friendly against Wakefield Trinity on Boxing Day, Smith reiterated as such:

“There will no announcement in the short term regarding that.”

Since then, in every friendly he has played, Leeming has led out the Rhinos as skipper with Ash Handley doing so against Bradford Bulls.

After the Leigh Leopards game though Smith said he didn’t appoint a captain and said Leeming was “as good as gold” for the match day roles he played.

Today, Smith has confirmed that he will not appoint a specific captain in an unusual decision for any Super League club to take.

Though Smith has explained the thought process behind the decision:

“We will not have one specific captain just as we finished last season. In the final months of the season, Kruise Leeming, Cameron Smith, Mikolaj Oledzki and Ash Handley were each matchday captain at various times. We are in a fortunate position to have a young and talented squad with many players who possess some of the typical characteristics you would look for in a captain.

“We have experienced players in key positions within the team who show leadership every time they step onto the field. The challenge is to develop that leadership across the squad. I have always spoken about our team collectively reaching our potential rather than individuals.  Likewise, just looking at our club’s history, there have been many examples of great leaders within Leeds teams have who have not been captain. We are looking to develop both for the sake of the team not just this season but for the years ahead.

“I have been proud this off season to see how our players have supported each other whether that is experienced guys mentoring young players or the guys who have been around the first team squad for a couple of years helping our first years. We have also been able to share the workload of the captaincy across the squad during the close season. We want everyone to see themselves as a leader to someone and to focus on each individual game. No one person is more important than another.”

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