Leeds Rhinos' Cameron Smith talks Super League title aim, new leadership and thriving under coach Rohan

New number 13 Cameron Smith insists Leeds Rhinos can “definitely go on and win honours” this year.
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Under coach Rohan Smith, Rhinos were beaten by St Helens in the 2022 Grand Final after finishing fifth in Betfred Super League for a third successive season.

The squad has been overhauled since then, with eight players leaving and nine coming in and the competition sponsors make Rhinos joint-third favourites to finish top of the table, alongside Thursday’s opening opponents Warrington Wolves.

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Rhinos had a disappointing pre-season in terms of results, losing to Wakefield Trinity, Leigh Leopards and Hull KR and managing just one win, against Championship side Bradford Bulls, but Cameron Smith insisted: “They are called trials for a reason and that can in no way determine how our season is going to go.”

Cameron Smith takes on his former teammate Jordan Lilley during Rhinos' pre-season win over Bradford Bulls. Picture by Tony Johnson.Cameron Smith takes on his former teammate Jordan Lilley during Rhinos' pre-season win over Bradford Bulls. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Cameron Smith takes on his former teammate Jordan Lilley during Rhinos' pre-season win over Bradford Bulls. Picture by Tony Johnson.

The loose-forward stressed: “Different people need different things and Rohan has taken that approach in terms of playing different people in different positions.

“It is a long old year and people will be needed in different roles throughout it, whether that’s down to injuries or fixtures coming thick and fast.

“We went one short last year and like every other team, our aim is to win the comp’. We can definitely go on and win honours, we have got the team for it.

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“We have had a detailed pre-season, everybody knows their role and we’ve recruited really well.

Cameron Smith, front centre with Richie Myler and James Bentley, captained Leeds in last year's play-off semi-final win at Wigan. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.Cameron Smith, front centre with Richie Myler and James Bentley, captained Leeds in last year's play-off semi-final win at Wigan. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
Cameron Smith, front centre with Richie Myler and James Bentley, captained Leeds in last year's play-off semi-final win at Wigan. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“Each person we’ve brought in brings different qualities to the team so I am very excited. I can’t wait for it to get started now.

“I think pre-season has been what we needed as a team, some players had a decent break and we are feeling nice and fresh and ready for a good year.”

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If Leeds do win a trophy, it’s unclear who will actually lift the silverware. Rhinos go into the season without a full-time skipper and the role will be split between various players - including Smith - on a game-by-game basis.

Last season ended in Grand Final disappointment for Rhinos, but Cameron Smith reckons they can go one better in 2023. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.Last season ended in Grand Final disappointment for Rhinos, but Cameron Smith reckons they can go one better in 2023. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
Last season ended in Grand Final disappointment for Rhinos, but Cameron Smith reckons they can go one better in 2023. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
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Smith captained Rhinos in last year’s play-off semi-final win at Wigan Warriors and “absolutely loved it”. He recalled: “It was a privilege to do it, it’s such a big club and I’ve been here my whole life. It was also my 100th appearance for the club, so it was a big day for me and my family.

“In terms of this year, I am not the captain - we have a group of leaders in our team. That’s the way we are going, it’s going to be a collective thing, not necessarily one person.”

Smith vowed: “I think it’s a really good idea. We have got tons of experience in our team and people who lead in different ways. To have it as a collective, I think it’s a really good way to go forward.

“We’ve got players who have been in the game a lot longer than others and to not have it on one person is a good thing. I think it’ll reward us throughout the year, we will have tons of voices in the dressing room and tons of leaders out on the field.”

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Smith is one of Rhinos’ longest-serving players - having made his debut in 2016. He added: “I am only 24, but obviously Rohan sees me as a leader and I’d like to think of myself that way.

“I don’t regard myself as a senior player because I am still young and I am learning about the game and how people want to be treated and what the team needs.

“I don’t know how you define a senior player, is it decided by how many games you’ve played or how long you’ve played the game for?

“I am not sure, I just think being a leader is the more appropriate way of putting it. It’s not necessarily how old you are or how many games you’ve played - if you can lead in a way that works, do it.”

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Thursday will be Smith’s first competitive game in the number 13 jersey. His 26 appearances last term was a personal best and 2022 was the season he really established himself as an integral part of the side.

“I feel like my career got stuck for two years, maybe,” he recalled. “I wasn’t playing the role I wanted to play, but last year Rohan gave me the chance to play the game how I want to play.

“I am super-lucky he allows me to express myself and play the expansive style the Leeds city and fans love to watch.

“I would say this is the biggest year for me in terms of getting established, because I have managed to get myself in the 13 shirt. I wanted it as a kid and to have that now doesn’t seem real yet. I can’t wait to pull it on.”