Rohan Smith will kick-start Leeds Rhinos’ season says Ash Handley

LEEDS RHINOS’ “new era” under Rohan Smith has officially begun and vice-captain Ash Handley reckons the coach’s arrival will kick-start their season.

By Peter Smith
Friday, 6th May 2022, 6:00 am

Rhinos’ full squad met Smith for the first time yesterday when they reported back from a short mid-season break, two days after his arrival in Leeds.

The Australian held a team meeting in the morning before his first on-field training session and Handley insisted the players are looking forward to a fresh way of doing things.

Smith, 40, had a previous spell in charge of Bradford Bulls and has worked as an assistant in Super League and the NRL, but this is his first head-coaching role at the elite level.

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New Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith met his players for the first time yesterday. Picture: Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos/SWpix.com

Handley said: “I’ve heard a lot of good things from people who have worked with him in the past, which is great.

“We are looking forward to turning a corner.

“We’ve got this weekend off so we can get through a bit of work and some new things he might want to bring in.

“We have got quite a few bodies back as well, so it is almost like the season is maybe just kick-starting for us.”

Leeds Rhiinos' Ash Handley in action against Hull KR. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

Of his first impressions of the new man, Handley added: “He seems quite direct and he knows what he wants.

“We’re looking forward to getting out there and putting it into practice.

“We are on to a new era; we are looking for a bit of direction, which I think he will give us.”

Yesterday’s introduction came 10 days before Rhinos’ next match, at Salford Red Devils on Sunday, May 15 and Handley reckons the long build-up is ideal.

“We’ve got a good few days’ training with him,” the winger noted. “I don’t think it will be over-complicated, what he wants from us.

“Hopefully we will pick it up pretty sharpish and we’re looking forward to the Salford game.”

Smith will work with Rhinos’ existing backroom staff, including Jamie Jones-Buchanan who was interim-coach for six games following Richard Agar’s resignation in March, ironically following a defeat at Salford.

Rhinos won Jones-Buchanan’s final two matches as boss and last Friday’s 12-0 victory over Hull KR lifted them two places to ninth in Betfred Super League.

They now have a five-point cushion over bottom club Toulouse Olympique and Handley believes Smith has taken over a team already heading in the right direction.

“Jonesy has done a great job,” he said.

“He has brought us together over the time he has been coach and brought in some good things which are going to stick with us all, hopefully.

“Now Rohan can come in and look at what he wants to keep, change and add to.

“Jonesy has laid some good foundations for us and we are just looking to build on that now.”

Rhinos were without 13 senior players for the game seven days ago, but Zane Tetevano and James Bentley are now available after suspension and casualties including Richie Myler, David Fusitu’a, Liam Sutcliffe and Aidan Sezer could come into contention for the trip to AJ Bell Stadium.

The gap of more than two weeks between games will give players a chance to recover from the hectic Easter period and Handley said spirits are high approaching the season’s midway point.

“You need that time to rest after playing so many games in a short space of time,” he stated.

“It has been nice to relax and get away from rugby a little bit, on the back of two good results.

“We are ready to crack on now and get back into it.”