Family connection led to Rohan Smith landing Leeds role

However, the new head coach revealed he has no plans to lure his uncle Tony to Headingley.

By Press Association Published: 21 April 2022 - 11.12am

Rohan Smith was encouraged to go for the position of Leeds head coach by his uncle Tony, the current Hull KR boss, but has no plans to lure him to Headingley.

The 40-year-old son of former Bradford and Wakefield coach Brian Smith was appointed as the successor to Richard Agar on the day Tony dropped his bombshell announcement that he would be leaving Rovers at the end of the season.

That prompted speculation that Smith senior, who guided Leeds to their first major trophy in 2004, could link up with his nephew for 2023 but Rohan dismissed the prospect during a press conference conduced via zoom from his Brisbane home on Thursday morning.

“Tony and I have regular texts about life and footy,” he said. “He’s been a guiding influence for me and helped me get my first start in England with London Broncos.

“I’m looking forward to spending more time with him but at this stage it’s as an uncle and not as a colleague.”

Smith, who joins the Rhinos from reigning Queensland Cup champions Norths Devils, the feeder club to Brisbane Broncos, says he sought advice not only from his uncle but Leeds assistant coach Chev Walker as he weighed up his options.

“I asked Tony if there was any reason not to try to pursue that job and he said there was definitely no reason not to go for it,” he said.

New Leeds coach Rohan Smith (Leeds Rhinos hand-out)

“I’ve also kept in close contact with Chev Walker. I have a deep trust in Chev, he’s a great man.

“My manager did his due diligence on the club and everything turned out to be perfect.”

Smith’s only previous position as a head coach was with Bradford in the Championship in 2016 but he has worked with a host of NRL clubs and dismisses the notion that his lack of experience at the top level makes him a risky appointment.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I’m in my fifth season in the third-best tier of rugby league in the world so it’s a high level of competition,” he said.

Hull Kingston Rovers v Castleford Tigers – Betfred Challenge Cup – Quarter Finals – Sewell Group Craven Park
Hull KR head coach Tony Smith encouraged his nephew Rohan to apply for the Leeds job (PA Images/Will Matthews)

“I’ve spent time under some of the greatest coaches of our era, starting with Daniel Anderson and my father and Trent Robinson has been huge influence.

“I’m in my 20th year of professional coaching. You can only get experience of the big job by being in the big job.

“I’m not under illusions about what the job entails but there’s been plenty of coaches that have come over from Australia with similar backgrounds and been super successful, people like Kristian Woolf, Justin Holbrook, Trent Robinson and Michael Maguire.

“Lots of those guys had been coaching in lower grades or as assistant coaches at NRL clubs, which is not dissimilar to my background.”

Kristian Woolf File Photo
Rohan Smith says he is following in the footsteps of people like St Helens head coach Kristian Woolf in making the move to Super League (PA Images/Richard Sellers)

Smith, who described his Bradford experience as a “confidence builder”, takes up a three-and-a-half-year contract with immediate effect but is waiting for his paperwork to arrive before catching a flight to England.

Leeds have won just one of their first nine league games and they could find themselves bottom of the table when his uncle Tony takes his Hull KR side to Headingley on Friday week if the Rhinos lose to fellow strugglers Toulouse on Friday.

Smith says his focus will not only be on avoiding relegation but on long-term planning.

“I want to take Leeds as far as I can,” he said. “I understand the immediacy of the role.

“Every game is like a Grand Final for me. The reason we do it is because you know you might fail so that makes the success more rewarding. The chase and the thrill of it all is because you could lose. I enjoy that roller coaster”-

“Week to week there’s an opportunity to get a result but I’ve always had an eye on the next week, the next month, the next year. It’s about getting some short-term improvements that can lead to a longer-term way of playing.

“Every game is like a Grand Final for me. You live and breathe the whole week to try and get that performance to play well on the weekend.

“The reason we do it is because you know you might fail so that makes the success more rewarding. The chase and the thrill of it all is because you could lose. I enjoy that roller coaster.

“It will be a week-to-week thing. We’ll accumulate the points and see how it looks at the end of the year.”

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