For a year that promised so much at Headingley, 2022 has been tumultuous at best.
Leeds are still inside the bottom four and have lost more games than they’ve won – a surprising statistic for a side tipped for a top four spot at the start of the year.
The Rhinos have also been through three coaches in Richard Agar, interim boss Jamie Jones-Buchanan and now new boss Rohan Smith.
Under Smith, we’re beginning to see what the new Leeds could look like. He’s masterminded three wins including two huge wins over Warrington by 40 points to four and yesterday against Hull FC with Leeds scoring 11 tries for 62 points.
Yes, there’s been some major disappointments, but when Smith’s philosophy takes hold, Leeds are very good in attack now it seems and winger Ash Handley reaped the benefits yesterday scoring five tries joining Danny McGuire, Ali Lauitiiti and Ryan Hall as the only Leeds players to do so in a Super League fixture.
To be fair to Handley, he’s been brilliant all season even when Leeds have struggled and has been one of the top metre makers in the league showing the effort he puts in at the back.
So, Smith felt his tries were a just reward:
“He’s a top end finisher,” Smith said of Handley after the game, “He’s probably a bit underestimated with how hard he carries the ball out in yardage.
“He’s a great team guy and a leader. So, it’s nice to see a winger get a bunch of tries to reward the effort.”
In emphasising Handley’s leadership, Smith also noted that Handley played an important role in maintaining stability as Leeds went through three coaches suggesting that his leadership helped keep things together as the coaching hotseat changed hands from Agar to Buchanan and then to Smith: “He plays a key part in the behind the scenes stuff especially through three different coaches. Ash has had a real impact on the group and he’s a great young man.”