5 reasons why Brad Arthur deal is good for Leeds Rhinos and 1 potential concern

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Anyone with an interest in Leeds Rhinos knows to always expect the unexpected.

When Rohan Smith stepped down three weeks ago, the prospect of top Australian team boss Brad Arthur taking over for what could be only a 10-game spell would have seemed far-fetched. But that’s the immediate solution Rhinos have come up with and Arthur is now beginning a short-term deal as interim-coach until the end of this season.

It’s certainly an eye-catching appointment. The 50-year-old is vastly-experienced, having coached Parramatta Eels from the 2014 season until his dismissal in May. During that time they were regulars in the NRL play-offs and reached the Grand Final two years ago.

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For the moment, uncertainty over Smith’s permanent successor will continue and that is far from ideal, but in many ways the unconventional arrangement makes good sense. Here’s five potential benefits - and one possible concern.

Leeds Rhinos' interim head-coach Brad Arthur. Picture by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images.Leeds Rhinos' interim head-coach Brad Arthur. Picture by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images.
Leeds Rhinos' interim head-coach Brad Arthur. Picture by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images.

1: Rhinos are sending out the message to fans, sponsors and players they haven’t given up on this year. They began round 17 sitting seventh in Betfred Super League, two points outside the play-off positions, but - remarkably - only four behind second spot.

Leeds are outside the six because of inconsistency and some unnecessary defeats, particularly at home to Huddersfield Giants and away against Hull FC, but it’s a tight competition and wouldn’t take much improvement for them to go on the sort of run that took them all the way to the Grand Final two years ago. In recent seasons the club have been accused by some critics of settling for mediocrity, but rather than drifting, they have taken a positive approach to the rest of the campaign which bodes well for the future.

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2: Arthur is another fresh pair of eyes. There has recently been a major change in the way Rhinos’ rugby department is run with sporting director Ian Blease taking over duties which - for most of the past almost 28 years - had been chief executive Gary Hetherington’s responsibility.

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Leeds Rhinos sporting director Ian Blease. Picture by James Hardisty.Leeds Rhinos sporting director Ian Blease. Picture by James Hardisty.
Leeds Rhinos sporting director Ian Blease. Picture by James Hardisty.

Though he has made a strong start, Blease is still getting to grips with the way things are done at Leeds and having someone of Arthur’s experience to bounce ideas off and take advice from can only be a good thing.

3: The short-term appointment allows Arthur to take a good look at Rhinos and them to do the same with him. If it doesn’t work out, neither party has really lost anything, but it may be he brings about a repaid improvement in the team’s fortunes and decides he prefers the weather in Leeds to Sydney - or Perth. In which case, his stay could be extended and Rhinos would go into next year with an insight into how the club operates and the players he has to work with. It’s easier to negotiate face to face and if it turns out the club aren’t happy with what he brings, they won’t have to buy the coach out of a long-term deal.

4: Rhinos are still in the market, but Blease has confirmed some of the coaches they are interested in are under contract elsewhere. That would apply to Salford Red Devils’ Paul Rowley who worked with Blease up until a few weeks ago and has been strongly linked with the role, though without any confirmation from Leeds.

Salford, ironically, are one of the teams who might deny Rhinos a top-six finish and, while Leeds is a bigger job, it would be understandable if Rowley wanted to at least see out this season. They don’t want to lose him, but a move to Rhinos at the end of the campaign would be fairer on his current club. Rowley has a season left on his deal after this one, so if Arthur agreed to do another year at Leeds he would potentially be available at the end of that.

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Leeds Rhinos have a talented squad which Brad Arthur could bring the best out of. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Leeds Rhinos have a talented squad which Brad Arthur could bring the best out of. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Leeds Rhinos have a talented squad which Brad Arthur could bring the best out of. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

5: The new boss has extensive contacts in the NRL, having coached there for so long. Blease said Arthur has already spoken of “players wanting to come and join him”, which - subject to salary cap restrictions - opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities. Even if his stay doesn’t extend beyond this year, Arthur has wealth of knowledge about the talent available in Australia which Rhinos cap tap into.

6: On the other hand, if he takes the Perth job in 2026 Arthur will be looking to build a squad and any Leeds players who impress over the next 11 games could appear on his radar - as well as some of the hugely exciting youngsters coming through the system at Headingley.

That, though, isn’t anything new. NRL clubs are already scouring the English market and the way to head off interest is by tying players to long-term deals, as Rhinos have recently done with some of their most promising young prospects.

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