Tony Smith proud of record at Hull KR, Leeds Rhinos, Warrington Wolves and Huddersfield Giants as he hits 500-game milestone in Super League

A little-known Australian when he arrived on these shores, Tony Smith is regarded as one of the best coaches of the summer era as he prepares for his 500th Super League game.

By James O’Brien
Sunday, 17th April 2022, 12:48 pm
GOING NOWHERE: Hull KR's coach Tony Smith after his side's victory over Castleford in the Betfred Challenge Cup. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
GOING NOWHERE: Hull KR's coach Tony Smith after his side's victory over Castleford in the Betfred Challenge Cup. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Such a milestone was a pipedream during a 15-match losing run that kicked off his first coaching job in England with Huddersfield Giants in 2001.

The Giants were duly relegated that season but Smith guided the club back to Super League at the first attempt and the rest, as they say, is history.

The 55-year-old led Hull KR to a derby victory over Hull FC in his 499th game in the competition and will reach a special landmark when the Robins take on Toulouse Olympique in France tomorrow.

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ON THE UP: Hull KR's Lachlan Coote celebrates with team-mates Jordan Abdull and Ethan Ryan after scoring a try against derby rivals Hull FC. Picture by Will Palmer/SWpix.com

“I’m not one for personal milestones or accolades but I’ve got to say, I’m proud to have achieved that many,” Smith told The Yorkshire Post.

“The industry of coaching is sometimes unforgiving in professional sport so to be around as long as I have takes some doing and hopefully I’ve had some impact at the places I’ve been at.

“I’ve been really lucky to be involved for so long and to be part of some great clubs as well as coaching the national team. It’s been a real honour.”

From Huddersfield to Warrington Wolves with an unforgettable stop at Leeds Rhinos in between, Smith left an indelible mark on all his previous clubs.

Warrington coach Tony Smith (left), with captain Adrian Morley after winning the Carnegie Challenge Cup Final at Wembley in 2012. Picture: Matthew Impey/PA

The former Great Britain and England coach is in the process of transforming Hull KR’s fortunes but he paused momentarily to take a short trip down memory lane.

“I’m able to move on after I’ve spent my time there and am fully committed to my job at Hull KR,” said Smith. “But I can look back. Huddersfield gave me my first opportunity here in this country and it was tough, but after that tough period that we had initially that club has gone on to be a stronger club.

“I went to the Rhinos in 2004 and they hadn’t won the competition in 32 years. We won it in the first year.

“Many good things were going on at the club when I got there but they still hadn’t cracked the big one.

GREAT TIMES: Leeds Rhinos' Headingley homecoming after winning the Super League Grand Final in 2007 - Tony Smith with the trophy.

“It was nice to be part of that and to get a couple of those. My last-ever game coaching there was a Grand Final win and not many coaches can say that.

“They then went on to dominate for a number of years so I’d like to think things were pretty good there during that time.”

Smith has openly admitted that he felt drained towards the end of his time at Warrington but he can still look back with fondness.

“Warrington were the almost men as well,” he added.

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: Tony Smith - unveiled as the new coach for Huddersfield Giants back in 2001.

“They weren’t part of the big four when I took over and for most of the years I was there they were part of the big four after taking Bradford’s position.

“It was unfortunate we didn’t win a Grand Final. I would like to think that club changed during my time there.

“Now I’m at Hull KR, we’re trying to change from where we have been to where we can be.

“I love those journeys and those challenges.”

Smith won two Super League titles with Leeds and the Challenge Cup on three occasions during his time at Warrington.

But he does not measure his impact on silverware alone.

“It goes beyond that,” said Smith. 
“Ultimately you’re trying to get your players to achieve those trophies but for me, it’s about changing culture or adding to the culture to the point where your club is competing for those big moments.

“Whether I’m there or if it’s when I’ve gone that they go on to achieve success, you know you’ve been part of that change.

“That’s the bit I’ve really enjoyed.”

Smith took Hull KR from relegation candidates to title contenders in the space of two years and is not done yet.

While the passion burns brightly and he is still getting his message across, Smith will delay any retirement thoughts.

“As soon I’m not enjoying it and the players find I’m not the right person for them, that’s the indicator,” he said.

“I’ll sense that. Coaching is all about relationships and if they’re on board with me, I’ll give everything I’ve got to them.

“If that ever wanes, it’s time for me to finish and go fishing or something else.”