New Leeds Rhinos coach Rohan Smith reveals hopes and aspirations at first press conference
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Speaking at a press conference, via Zoom from his home in Brisbane, Smith said he has seen some footage of Rhinos in action this year, but admitted: “Now is the time to play catch-up and work out the areas where we can improve quickest.”
The new boss insisted: “I am not going to predict or forecast where we might finish this year.
“It is way too early to tell, but it is a week-to-week opportunity to play well and to get the show on the road on the back of what seems to be some positive growth in the last few weeks.”
Smith, who lived in Bramhope during a previous spell in England and hopes to arrive at Leeds next week, already has an insight into Rhinos’ squad.
He said: “There’s six or seven guys who I’ve coached over the years, all the way back to Zane Tetevano who was in my under-20s team at Newcastle Knights.
“Rhyse Martin was at the Roosters as a young fella when I was there, so there’s some familiarity among some of the more seasoned, experienced guys.
“I am certainly going to have to get to know the younger, more inexperienced guys, their style and their personality as well.”
Rhinos have high hopes for young players in their scholarship and academy system, as well as the first-team squad and were keen to appoint a coach who will give them an opportunity.
Smith stressed he is keen to develop the club at all levels and will promote youngsters if they are good enough.
“The first job I had was as a video analyst and general helping hand for Daniel Anderson at the Warriors,” Smith said.
“Their ability to develop players in that era was phenomenal.
“There was a lot of attention to detail on the basics and that came out in such a flamboyant way.
“That was the grounding of my coaching so I have always had that development mentality.
“For much of my coaching career I’ve been the younger staff member so I’ve always gravitated to the kids coming through.
“I have always had a passion for coaching the guys on the fringe or the younger ones coming in.”
But he warned: “It’s a balancing act as well. You want to pick the team that’s going to win and progress the club at the same time.
“Sometimes that means picking young guys and sometimes they have to wait their turn as well.”
Smith joins Rhinos from Queensland Cup champions - and Brisbane Broncos feeder club - Norths Devils, where he had been in charge since 2018.
He had an overall success rate of 66.6 per cent, winning 48 of his 72 games as coach, but, since 2020 onwards, his record was 22 victories from 25 matches, a winning ratio of 88 per cent.
He is the son of experienced ex-NRL and Super League guru Brian Smith and his uncle, Tony Smith, coached Leeds to two Super League titles and is currently coach at Hull KR.
This is his first job as a head coach at the top level, but addressing the question of his experience, the 40-year-old said he has been “chasing the dream” of running his own team in an elite competition.
“I have done a lot of different roles,” he said. “I’ve coached at every level in the NRL, been an assistant-coach in Super League, been an assistant-coach in NRL - defence, attack and last plays. I’ve been a reserves coach and coached under-20s, under-18s and now Queensland Cup. I am in my fifth season in the third-best tier of rugby league in the world.
“Most games have 50 per cent or more of players who’ve been in NRL systems so it’s a high level of competition I have been involved in. I have spent time under some of the greatest coaches of our era - Daniel Anderson, my father, Trent Robinson has been a huge influence on myself.
“I am in my 20th year of professional coaching and I am not under any illusions about what the job entails. Plenty of coaches have come over from Australia with similar backgrounds and been super-successful.”
Smith confirmed he will work with Rhinos’ existing backroom staff, including academy/reserves boss Chev Walker who he has kept in “close contact” with since they worked together at Bradford Bulls in 2016.
He has already spoken to interim-coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who will be one of his assistants and revealed the two were team-mates as youngsters at the Stanningley community club when his father was boss at Bradford Bulls in 1996.
Jones-Buchanan will coach Rhinos in tonight’s game.