It’s been quite the day for rugby league announcements. First, Hull KR’s Tony Smith surprisingly announced that he would depart the club at the end of this season, before Leeds Rhinos chose his nephew Rohan as the man to lead them into a new era.
Speaking after receiving the breaking news live on The Sportsman's latest episode of 'The Last Tackle', Head Coach of current Betfred League One side Keighley Cougars Andrew Henderson believes it could turn into a family affair at Headingley.
“Well that’s a great job for Rohan Smith, a great opportunity,” he begins.
“Obviously he knows the British game; he has worked over here previously with the Bradford Bulls. I know he is doing a decent job over there with his club in Australia. Fantastic opportunity for Rohan, but it now adds that little storyline, potentially, the twist is - could Tony Smith be going there as a Director of Rugby type role at the end of the season? That will be interesting.”
Also on the panel for this week’s show was former England stand-off Kevin Brown, who believes Smith has a huge challenge ahead of him, despite his potential.
"I think Gary Hetherington is a very shrewd individual,” he says. “He's been around the game and he has got experience, so he won't rush into this. So the fact that he has picked Rohan Smith to deliver, and pull them out of this mess, he must be very confident and the feedback he must have, I think he needs a little bit of help there. Tony Smith could be perfect - you know, he is a family member - we know his connection with Leeds. Will he be going there as a mentor? Ala Shaun Wane and Matty Peet, we know how that transcended Wigan's culture and form this year.
“I'm not sure I'd be confident with someone who has never coached at the highest level coming in,” he continues. “Because it is a massive job for whoever comes in at Leeds at the minute. And that is before this weekend's result. If they lose this weekend then they are dead bottom. Then it bears thinking about the job on his hands with him coming in. He'll want to get over as soon as possible to change this form.”
It’s been a rough few years for Leeds Rhinos since their 2017 Grand Final win. Brian McDermot’s departure has led to a few false dawns, as David Furner’s short spell ended in 2019, while Richard Agar paid the price for the shambolic start to this campaign. Now the Rhinos are looking for a man with a long-term vision to reignite the city.
"I think with Rohan Smith, he has got a connection to England because he has been over here previously so he understands the dynamic of the British game and British mentality and players,” Henderson adds.
“I know he is big on development as well, so they obviously feel there is a need to develop certain players and certain systems and infrastructure within the environment. So I think he will be looking to bring that sort of stuff to the party as well. I agree, they are putting their hat on him, looking at him for a long-term plan to not only change the culture and the ethos within the club but I think to look at their whole performance, systems and structures, the youth development system and get it all back to where it has been before. Again it is one of those. If he gets it right there, Leeds as we know have the ability, the facilities, the resources, the finance, to be a force again.”
Then it was left to Brown to add the final words, and he still thinks this squad has potential.
"I still think they've got the roster at his disposal. I don't think he will have to go out and change a whole load. If he can get the players playing to their ability then they won't be far off every week.”