LEEDS Rhinos have appointed former Great Britain and England player Tony Smith as their new Academy Head Coach.
Smith, who played for Castleford, Wigan and Hull FC, joins from Dewsbury Rams where he was Assistant Coach. The ex scrum-half, who was a Grand Final winner with Wigan in 1998 and went on to represent England in the 1995 and 2000 World Cups, moved into coaching after his retirement and has coached in Super League with Wakefield and was Academy Head Coach at Castleford Tigers for eight years.
Speaking about joining the Rhinos, Smith said: “It feels a bit surreal, it’s all happened very quickly. I have been involved in youth development for the last ten years and to end up at this club really excites me. I think if you look at the players that Leeds has produced over the last 25 years it shows that they are doing something right.
“Chev Walker did an outstanding job last season that saw the team win the Grand Final and The majority of the team who played last year in the Final can play again this year for the Academy so it really is an exciting time to be involved with the club.
“As well as helping the players be the best they can on the pitch, it’s also about developing them as people and the resources and the staff we have here at the club gives us the best opportunity to do that. From a coaching point of view what’s really pleasing is seeing a young lad make his debut, especially when you have played a part in that. I have been involved in the game for the last 40 years and I want to make a difference and pass on some of my experience and also bring an energy and something different to these young players that I will be coaching. After packing in playing, being part of the development of new players is the next best thing and it excites me to help them grow as people and players.
“I would like to thank Dewsbury Rams for allowing this move to happen, I absolutely loved my time at the Rams and working alongside Liam Finn, who is a great coach.”
Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive, Gary Hetherington, said: “We are delighted to welcome Tony Smith to the Rhinos in this important role. He has a passion for personal development of young players and a wealth of experience in his field. He will certainly be a valuable asset to our backroom staff going forward.”
Player Pathway Development Manager, John Bastian, said: “I am really looking forward to working with Tony at the Rhinos. The role of Academy Manager is one of the most important at the club, and probably next in line to the Head Coach. As a club we value the importance of doing the very best for our junior players, making them feel comfortable within our environment, making them feel valued and cared for and nurturing their talent over a period of time.
“Certainly, Tony Smith fits all the criteria we were looking for. He’s got a wealth of experience not only as a player in Super League, but he’s coached at Super League level and has spent a lot of years working with young people during his time with Castleford.
“You can gain an understanding of somebody’s interest and what they actually want to achieve, just by their energy and their enthusiasm and certainly that comes across very strongly with Tony.
“He’s coming into the Academy on the back of a successful year and what we are looking for now is consistency. We want to see the improvements year on year. Chev Walker did a terrific job and he built and progressed the squad last year.
“Tony’s now got a wonderful opportunity and will have a strong support mechanism around him and that will include people like Chev and Rohan Smith and the rest of the first team staff and he won’t be on his own. Everybody will support him and get behind him.”