INCOMING Wakefield Trinity Wildcats coach Brian Smith insisted nothing he saw in yesterday’s 58-26 defeat by Leeds Rhinos came as a surprise.
It was Wildcats’ 14th successive First Utility Super League defeat and the sixth time they have conceded more than 50 points this season.
Smith was at the game as an observer before starting his new job today and he said: “It was true to form for Wakefield in the last two or three months.
“It wasn’t much different to what was expected, but we are always hopeful.”
Despite the heavy defeat, which left Wildcats seven points adrift at the foot of the table, Smith, who coached in England with Hull and Bradford Bulls and also had spells in charge of Australian clubs Illawarra Steelers, St George, Parramatta Eels, Newcastle Knights and Sydney Roosters, said there were positive signs.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” he admitted. “But there are things I can see that are simple in theory, easy to identify, not so hard to practice and most times they are things you can get a pretty quick result from.
“It is still difficult to get right in the game, under pressure and under fatigue. That’s why footy – or rugby as I should learn to say again – is very much a tough game, for tough people.
“It is physical toughness, but when you are in the situation our guys are in – and I am in it now too – you can’t get the physical toughness unless you get the mental toughness first.
“We’ll be working on all of it and it starts with us putting in really good preparation.”
Smith was appointed eight days ago, ending a two-year exile from the game.
The 61-year-old, who said he has seen all Wildcats’ Sky-televised games this year, spoke to his players in the changing rooms after yesterday’s match. “Some of it’s very private,” he said. “But the guts of it was, let me do the worrying. I am a professional worrier.”
Rhinos’ second win in six league matches took them back into top spot and asked what he thought of yesterday’s opponents, Smith said: “To be fair I was very focused on Wakefield, but they scored some scintilating tries.
“Traditionally, even from back in the day when I was at Hull, Leeds – as far as I know – have always played a good brand of footy.
“They are willing to move the ball about and they got the opportunity to do that.
“Some of the stuff that went on encouraged them to play to the full limit of their philosophy and abilities. They will be hard to beat for any team, I think.
“We did some good things, we put some good tries on them, but their attack was just too good for our defence most of the time.
“And for quite large chunks of the time, their defence was too good for our attack.”