“So much going on off the pitch that it’s all a blur” – England star opens up on rollercoaster season at Leeds Rhinos

Whilst the 2022 Super League season threw up some unexpected finishing spots for certain teams, with Ian Watson’s Huddersfield impressing and Warrington going the other way and disappointing, few teams had such a turnaround as Leeds Rhinos.

The Rhinos are one of Super League’s historic teams and their successful history proves so however they’d fallen upon a fallow spell of form these past few years, not having lifted the title since 2017.

Part of that has of course been down to the dominance of St Helens but the 2017 Grand Final marked the passing of the torch for many Rhinos’ legends such as Danny McGuire, Jamie Jones Buchanan and Rob Burrow to name a few.

The big man Jones Buchanan resumed until 2019 but the issue at Headingley seemed to be that there wasn’t a consistent squad or coach to carry on that work with a new crop of players.

One player who debuted that year for Rhinos was prop Mikolaj Oledzki and he’s revealed why Leeds have struggled since then and also referenced the influence ‘JJB’ has had since assuming a coaching role with the club.

“It feels like we’ve been rebuilding for a long time before last year. We’ve had some tough seasons, in 2017 we won the Grand Final and from that there’s been a big rotation in players and staff.

“Every year it’s been different and now looking back it’s quite difficult to get a team to play well together if you’re always changing stuff,” Oledzki told the Sportsman Rugby League Youtube channel.

Referring to the 2022 season, in which Rhinos started with seven losses from nine, the England international focused on the off field issues as a problem.

“It’s pretty strange looking back on last season because it feels like the games at the start, they weren’t in the same season as the games at the end because it felt so much different.

“Even the games in between, there’s been so much going on off the pitch that it’s all a blur. Looking back at the end of the season though with Jonesy coming in and Rohan coming in we got the belief back and people started enjoying themselves playing rugby.”

That first half of the season, or at least the first 11 games came under Richard Agar and whilst Smith lost his first game in charge against Salford the turnaround after that was incredibly impressive.

On the back of his debut defeat Smith’s Rhinos lost just five further games including that Grand Final defeat but the reversal of form and the stability that’s now being built under the Australian coach could provide foundations for another generation of success.

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