Rohan Smith reveals what he loves about coaching, has say on Leeds Rhinos’ Grand Final precedent and looks ahead to Catalans Dragons clash

It’s crunch time in the Betfred Super League and one club who are historically accustomed to this more than most is the Leeds Rhinos.

Along with St Helens, they’ve won a third of the previous 24 Grand Finals winning eight from 2004-17 and are still the last new side to win the Grand Final even though they’re now the format’s most successful side alongside reigning Champions the Saints.

They’re also the only side in Super League history to win the Grand Final from fifth doing so twice in 2011 and 2012. It’s a feat they’re going to have to repeat if they’re going to win this year’s Grand Final and their journey to Old Trafford starts with a trip to France to face last year’s beaten Grand Finalists the Catalans Dragons.

So, the job is not done but speaking at the Super League Dream Team reveal Rohan Smith noted just how much coming this far meant to him no doubt because of where Leeds have come from with the Rhinos having only won three games prior to his arrival before going on a terrific run of form which has seen them win 11 of their last 15 games.

The Rhinos of course secured their play-off spot with a dramatic win over West Yorkshire rivals Castleford at Headingley and delivering special moments like that is what Smith loves most about coaching: “Personally, it means a lot to me. It’s what you do it for. You fight for the opportunities to play the big games and represent the club and the people that support the club and that’s the thing I love about coaching. You get to share the outcome with so many people that it means so much to.

“To see the way the stadium was rocking against Castleford when we got the result meant everything.”

Not one to dwell on what has already been accomplished, Smith’s focus was straight on to Catalans though he admitted Leeds will again do it tough personnel wise after the loss of Ash Handley exacerbated by the suspension of Rhyse Martin.

“We’ve only got one focus only,” Smith said, “We won’t be close to full strength but it’s never been about that. We’ll recharge and get our best people out there and go and attack it.”

The pressure will be on come Friday night, but practically all of Smith’s games in charge since his arrival have been must wins as indicated by the fact they only made the play-offs by a single point ahead of Cas.

Smith believes that kind of experience could help the Rhinos come Friday night: “You’d like to think it would help. We’ve been in those moments a lot lately where one play can determine the outcome of the game and potentially the season.

“Whatever position we get ourselves in on Friday night will have been a lot similarly tough positions in recent weeks.”

The ability to win those tight games has of course presented Leeds with an unlikely opportunity to win a ninth Grand Final and Smith is keen to not let the opportunity simply pass them by: “You don’t know when your next opportunity is. If we go and play well enough to get ourselves another week then we’ll have to be very good a few more times to get the reward but we’ve got a lot of belief in our group.”

History is behind them with the Rhinos having beaten Catalans on the road to their sixth Super League title a decade ago which came from fifth. Though Smith didn’t speak at length about what this history means for his side, he did seem to indicate that its encouraging to know that league position no longer matters and only the result does: “I wasn’t aware that only one team had done it but I was aware that Leeds had done it previously. It’s a new competition, it doesn’t matter where you finished it’s about how you are on the day.”

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