Leeds Rhinos' Bodene Thompson speaks out on on coach Rohan Smith, the threat from Salford Red Devils and his future

Veteran forward Bodene Thompson has praised the “refreshing” brand of rugby being encouraged by Leeds Rhinos boss Rohan Smith.

By Peter Smith
Friday, 5th August 2022, 6:00 am

Rhinos have won four of their last five games going into Sunday’s visit of Salford Red Devils and Thompson reckons Smith’s willingness to let his side play what they see of paying off.

Assessing what the coach has brought to Rhinos, Thompson said: “Rohan definitely has a different philosophy.

“He is really good at dealing with each individual as a person first of all, rather than just a player.

Bodene Thompson in action for Rhinos against Toulouse. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“I think the boys get confidence out of that - they want to play and play to his style.

“He wants you to express yourself when you are on the field: ‘don’t hold back, if you see a gap, go for it and don’t worry about the consequences - I’ll never come down on you for having a go’.”

That style of rugby has been good to watch and Thompson feels it’s equally enjoyable to play in.

“It’s cool, it makes you look at different parts of the game,” the 34-year-old said.

Bodene Thompson reckons 'belief' was at the heart of Rhinos' comeback win against Catalans. Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com.

“Some coaches are just straight structure, so it’s like ‘get to this point for this play’.

“If you see there’s one man down or someone injured on the short side, sometimes you’re not encouraged to go there.

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Bodene Thompson is impressed with how coach Rohan Smith interacts with his Rhinos players. Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com.

“But with Rohan, it’s ‘if you see something, go - do it. Worry about that play then and there and make sure you get up and play the ball afterwards’.

“It is quite refreshing.”

The comeback win at Catalans Dragons last week, after they trailed 30-6 and were down to 12 men with Matt Prior sent-off, highlighted the growing belief in Rhinos’ ranks.

Reflecting on that victory, Thompson stressed: “Rohan gave us confidence going into the game, that we weren’t going there just to participate, we were going to win and have a crack.

“He really installed that belief in the boys and got that message across.

“The first half was pretty challenging, we made it hard for ourselves by dropping balls and giving penalties away, that kind of thing, but at half-time the scoreline didn’t reflect what was going on.

“We’d made a few mistakes, but we could tell they were struggling a bit.

“They’d had all the possession, but it felt like they were trying to slow the game down.

“We looked at that as a positive and in the second half we came out throwing punches left, right and centre, trying to get the win and luckily we did.”

Sunday’s game will provide an indication of how far Rhinos have come under Smith, having lost at Salford in Richard Agar’s final game as coach and his successor’s first.

Salford began round 22 in the sixth and final play-off spot, two places and a point ahead of Rhinos and crushed champions St Helens 44-12 last weekend.

“They have come on leaps and bounds,” Thompson warned.

“They have been building a good team for a few years now so it’s no surprise where they are and how they’re travelling.

“It’s definitely going to be a solid, tough game.

“They’ve beaten us twice, but we’ve come a long way since the start of the year so it’s going to be a good, challenging game.”

A win could see Rhinos end the weekend in the top six for the first time this year, if Hull lose at Huddersfield Giants on Friday.

Thompson pledged: “We want to be in the mix for the play-offs and having a red hot crack at the end of the year too.”

Thompson is out of contract at the end of this season and has yet to agree a deal at Leeds or any other club.

He said: “There’s a few things have popped up, but we’re just weighing things up at the moment.

“I think [staying at Leeds] might be a possibility, I’d love to, but that’s out of our control at the moment.

“It has been good to get a bit of a consistent run.

“I am really enjoying it, it has been mega.”