Rohan Smith hopeful for “movement” as Leeds Rhinos boss deals with “evolving jigsaw” recruitment

It’s never easy being a Head Coach coming into a club mid-season.

Not only are you required to turn results around, but you have to pick up other things that were started by others and are now left for you to figure out namely recruitment.

Whilst there has to be a stringent focus on the season itself, a careful eye has to be cast over the future to ensure the club is on the right track not just in the short term but in the long term.

Despite all of this, it’s safe to say Rohan Smith has done a terrific job since taking over at Headingley.

When he arrived Leeds were more or less in a relegation scrap with just three wins and a draw to their name. However, 11 wins out of 16 games under Smith has seen him take the Rhinos into the play-offs and the West Yorkshire club are now dark horses for Super League glory and they can look forward to a semi-final against Wigan next Friday,

But, there is a bigger picture at play at Headingley. Fifth is not where Leeds want to be finishing despite their history of winning the Grand Final from fifth. However, this is their third fifth place finish in a row. The Rhinos haven’t finished inside the top four since 2017 and have only finished inside the top three times since 2010.

Smith will be determined to change that and maintaining the form he’s sparked at Leeds going into next year will likely see him do just that, but how has he been preparing for 2023?

Well when he spoke to us last week, the Leeds boss revealed that since he arrived he’s had a quiet focus on next year and what pre-season could look like: “I’ve given next year a lot of thought. As a coach coming in mid-way through the season, you have to have an eye on the method you’re going to use in pre-season not going into massive detail.

“I’ve had a weekly focus on the team ahead but in the background just sort of a quiet focus on the future.”

Of course, another key element going into 2023 is recruitment. Leeds have already announced the signings of highly rated young forwards Justin Sangare and James McDonnell whilst Leon Ruan has been on trial at the club after impressing at Doncaster and is set to be offered a deal.

Meanwhile, the likes of Luke Hooley of Batley and Castleford’s Derrell Olpherts are also set to sign for the Rhinos reportedly.

Leeds also have to sew up a few things in terms of retention such as deciding whether Zak Hardaker will remain at the club though it seems likely he will.

All of this will mostly mean Leeds are done in terms of recruitment, but Smith said he is hopeful there may be “some movement” ahead of next year and says he sees recruitment as an evolving puzzle.

“We’re pretty close to who we are,” Smith said when asked about what his 2023 squad would look like, “I’d hope there’s still opportunity for some movement in the coming weeks and months. I feel like the roster is always an evolving jigsaw puzzle.”